Dáil backs sale of State stake in Aer Lingus

Clare TD expresses concerns about connectivity as motion passed by 74 votes to 51

The Dáil has approved the sale of the State’s stake in Aer Lingus to International Airlines Group. File photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

The Dáil has approved the sale of the State’s stake in Aer Lingus to International Airlines Group. File photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Dáil has approved the sale of the State’s stake in Aer Lingus to International Airlines Group (IAG) following an ill-tempered two-day debate.

The motion was passed by 74 votes to 51.

Labour TD Michael McNamara was the only Coalition deputy to vote against the motion. He told the Dáil that while much had been done to meet his concerns, there were outstanding issues.

“There are questions I have . . . questions unanswered, and, in that context, I am not prepared to gamble with what I believe is the key to the economic development of all of this State.’’

Mr McNamara said next year would mark the centenary of the Rising and there would be talk of developing all of the country equally.

The Clare TD said one of the key factors in attracting US companies to Shannon was its connectivity to the US.

Driver of growth

Fianna Fáil

“Nevertheless, for a long period in its history it was the driver of growth in the midwest and it is again, largely because of decisions this Government has taken and which I have supported.’’

Mr McNamara said while the protections in the sale agreement were welcome, those around the Dáil a lot longer than him would recall that a similar golden or B share scenario was put in place to give the government a veto over the sale of the sugar division when Greencore was privatised.

A few years later doubts were cast on that agreement in a European Court of Justice ruling.

Key role

Dublin North

“Once a bid was made for Aer Lingus, we had to respond to the world as it was, not the world Sinn Féin or the far left pretended it was.’’

Mr Ryan said Aer Lingus was not a commercial semi-State company like the ESB and Ervia. “It is a private company with shareholders, of which the State is one. The company has always been subject to a takeover bid.’’

He said under the deal the Minister for Finance would have the ability to block any proposed disposal by Aer Lingus of any of its Heathrow slots indefinitely.

“This provides stronger protection for the State than the current arrangement, under which the State cannot prevent a reallocation, reassignment or cessation of use of the Heathrow airport slots.’’

He said the Minister would also be able to block a proposal by Aer Lingus to change its company name, brand and head office location and place of incorporation from Ireland.

“This commitment is unlimited in time and provides protection that, again, is not available under the current arrangement.’’