Fine Gael TDs voice support for IAG’s Aer Lingus bid

Labour opposed to deal but Coalition sources say sale unlikely before election

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has told the Oireachtas transport committee that his company is 'committed to maintaining the Aer Lingus brand' should they complete a takeover.

 

A growing number of Fine Gael TDs and Ministers say the Coalition should seriously consider selling the State’s shareholding in Aer Lingus.

Some backbenchers have approached Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe and told him they believe the 25 per cent stake should be sold to the International Airlines Group (IAG).

The Labour Party has largely turned its face against the sale, and senior Coalition figures from both parties say it is unlikely to happen before the next election.

However, sources said there has been a definite change of attitude among some in Fine Gael since IAG chief executive Willie Walsh engaged in a round of publicity last week. Some TDs and Senators in certain regions, such as north Dublin and the midwest, remain opposed.

Support for sale

One said the mood in Fine Gael is now “definitely more favourable” but the change had perhaps come too late. Another said IAG could improve connectivivity and reduce transatlantic air fares. Another Minister said it made commercial sense to sell.

Dublin South-East TD Eoghan Murphy said “well-intentioned though misplaced protectionism” should not get in the way of a deal that could create more jobs. “There was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction initially,” he said.

“We should also be considering this proposal if it means more jobs being created. The Government’s focus is job creation,” he said.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said his opinion has always been that Aer Lingus should be sold, and that had not changed in recent weeks. “It is the best option for the long-term future of the airline,” said Mr Cannon.

Scaremongering

Galway WestBrian Walsh

Cork East TD Tom Barry said he is broadly in favour of a sale and questioned how much influence a 25 per cent share is worth.

Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell called IAG the “perfect fit” because of its 300 Heathrow slots. She said “no other potential partner can offer the deal IAG can”, and cited its transatlantic sales network and cargo services.

Aer Lingus would be better positioned in a larger group if the airline industry is going through a period of consolidation, Ms Mitchell said.

Cork South-West’s Noel Harrington said he was concerned the timing was not right for such a sale as Aer Lingus was in a healthy commercial position.