Ministers insist Aer Lingus sale depends on connectivity and jobs

Alex White says concerns are understandable but Aer Lingus needs investment

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has insisted that any Government decision in relation to the sale of Aer Lingus to IAG will be in the “national interest”.. Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has insisted that any Government decision in relation to the sale of Aer Lingus to IAG will be in the “national interest”.. Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

 

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has insisted that any Government decision in relation to the sale of Aer Lingus to IAG will be in the “national interest”.

Speaking in Limerick on Friday he reiterated the Taoiseach’s stance that connectivity and jobs will be the two key considerations on the matter.

“Minister Paschal Donohoe will set out the policy and advice the Government. I am actually the shareholder. I hold the shares on behalf of the Irish state and I have been legally advised it would be inappropriate for me to comment in anyway as we are in what they call an offer period this morning.

“But I think things are changing and I check Bloomberg every morning and this morning one of the Gulf carriers has offered to buy almost 10 per cent of AIG and it looks as if that’s an acceptable bid so there’s a change imminent as well in the parent group that are bidding for Aer Lingus.

“There’s only two ways of getting on and off of this island, whether by boat or by plane so we want to make sure everything works out very satisfactorily,” he said.

Speaking in Cork the Minister for Communications Alex White said he will also wait for the Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohue for a detailed briefing on the proposal and expected any deal would have to include certain guarantees on connectivity and jobs.

Mr White said that he was aware of the concerns of many backbench Labour TDs that potential buyer, IAG would give guarantees on both the retention of Aer Lingus slots at Heathrow and connectivity as well as employment levels within the company.

“I don’t know what specifically IAG are saying about those matters but I would expect that they will address them ... I am sure those issues will be addressed. Quite manifestly, they would be required to be addressed and they would be part of the consideration the Government will give to this.”

Mr White said that he had not reached a definitive position on the proposed sale but there were a number of factors that he would take cognisance of in forming his view.

“The concerns that people would have in Dublin, in Cork and in Shannon are understandable concerns but the aviation world has changed and it’s changed in recent years and we are no longer in a position where it is typical to have national carriers owned by governments

“The last Government disposed of a 75 per cent share in Aer Lingus. Increasingly, connectivity between countries is really guaranteed or secured by the profitability of routes and in the case of Aer Lingus, as with every other airline, access to investment is absolutely essential for survival.”

There is growing pressure within the Government ranks over the implications for the economy of Ireland if the sale of the former national carrier proceeds.

IAG values the company at around €1.4 billion, which would net the government in the region of €345 million.

Regional business groups are also sounding the alarms bells about what impact any sale will have in areas such as Limerick and Cork, who rely on direct connectivity with London Heathrow as a unique selling point in attracting foreign direct investment into their regions.