herald

Thursday 19 October 2017

US billionaire Trump warns Enda Kenny against Aer Lingus sale

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Enda Kenny

US billionaire Donald Trump has strongly warned the Taoiseach against selling the State's shareholding in Aer Lingus in order to protect the country's tourism industry and links to foreign direct investment.

Mr Trump, who is considering a run for the White House, insists the airline provides "strategic advantages" to Ireland and "should not be given away to the highest bidder".

The high-profile businessman claims IAG boss Willie Walsh has the interest of shareholders as his "number one priority", adding: "I do not think this is a good deal for Ireland."

Significantly, Mr Trump indicates that protecting the State's shareholding in Aer Lingus is important to his plans to further invest "many millions of dollars" in his hotel and golf resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare.

"Aer Lingus, like the Irish shamrock and Guinness, is essentially Irish with a strong national identity which is very important to your country. It should not be given away to the highest bidder," Mr Trump wrote.

"Aer Lingus is a brand that you and your country should be very proud of. It is much more than a business transaction."

The decision by the high-profile businessman to wade into the row over the future of Aer Lingus comes as negotiations enter their most crucial phase.

And it comes after the Richard Branson-owned airline, Virgin Atlantic, claimed the sale of the State's 25pc stake would jeopardise competition and result in increased ticket prices.

Mr Trump's warning is made in a letter sent to Enda Kenny last month, which has been obtained by the Herald.

The letter was also sent to Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe and Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Mr Trump has made a significant investment in his Co. Clare resort, which employs over 250 people during peak season.

The American celebrity says the Heathrow slots provides the country with a strategic advantage that is "immeasurable".

noconnor@herald.ie

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