Friday 28 October 2016

Labour TDs 'in a panic' over sale of Aer Lingus

British Airways owner IAG has offered to pay €1.36bn to buy the State’s stake in Aer Lingus
British Airways owner IAG has offered to pay €1.36bn to buy the State’s stake in Aer Lingus

LABOUR Party TDs were in a state of panic today as ministers prepared to give the green light to the controversial sale of Aer Lingus.

A number of Labour TDs, including Joe Costello, Robert Dowds and Michael McNamara were this morning demanding guarantees from Tanaiste Joan Burton that any such deal must allay their fears a potential sale.

The deputies insist they will not support a deal unless there are “substantial assurances” over issues such as routes, the Heathrow slots, jobs, the use of Cork and Shannon Airports and the actual valuation of the company,

During an early morning meeting with unions, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the proposed takeover by the International Airlines Group (IAG) includes a number of concessions surrounding routes and the Heathrow slots.

It’s believed IAG has offered seven year guarantees surrounding the slots having previously been told the five year proposal was not satisfactory.

But the prospect of a sale, being discussed by the Cabinet today, has sent a wave of panic throughout the Labour backbenches.

Deputies, a number of whom are Dublin-based, have demanded details of the proposed deal from the Labour leadership today.

“We want all the documentation relevant to the proposal from IAG and will likely seek a briefing after Cabinet,” Joe Costello said.

Significantly, union sources have today conceded that the deal is likely press ahead despite their opposition.

At today’s Cabinet meeting, Mr Donohoe was expected to outline the findings of an expert group which is understood to have come down in favour of a deal.

Sources say the report concludes that the price offered by IAG is reasonable and that the British Airways-owned airline has given enough assurances around the use of Cork and Shannon airports.

Mr Donohoe met union officials at Government Buildings today ahead of the expected sale. While the deal might not be signed off on this week, there is now “renewed political momentum” behind agreeing to the takeover, according to sources.

A spokesman for the Impact Trade union told independent.ie that the union’s position remains that the assurances being put forward by IAG are “worthless”.

But a senior Labour source moved to allay the concerns of backbenchers.

“Major efforts have been made to address Labour Party concerns as set down in a motion agreed at conference,” the source said.

The motion, signed by eight Labour TDs, called for an independent valuation of the Aer Lingus assets and Heathrow slots.

It also sought a commitment to prevent the outsourcing of jobs and compulsory redundancies at the airline.

And the motion called for a plan for Cork and Shannon airports, taking into account their value with their individual regions.

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