herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Panic in Labour as Cabinet set to give green light to Aer Lingus sale

AVIATION

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.

Joe Costello, Robert Dowds and Michael McNamara are among a group of TDs who are demanding guarantees from Tanaiste Joan Burton.

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 a five-year assurance 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 now demanded all the details of the proposed deal from the Labour leadership.

"We want all the relevant information in relation to the sale and will be seeking a briefing later," Joe Costello told the Herald.

reasonable

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

At today's Cabinet meeting, Mr Donohoe was due 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.

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 the Herald 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.

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