Exporters: Don’t sell Aer Lingus

Exporters are pleading with the Government to withdraw the sale of its Aer Lingus stake as they warn of the dire consequences in store for Ireland’s export industry to the US.

The Irish Exporters Association fears potential buyers of the Government’s 25% stake in Aer Lingus will not provide the same reliable air cargo facility to the US.

The airline services an export and import industry worth over €22bn between Ireland and the US on a daily basis.

John Whelan, the chief executive of the exporters association, said it advised Transport Minister Leo Varadkar that the daily airfreight connection is critical to Ireland’s future growth.

“The Government just took their eye off the ball,” Mr Whelan said. “It is Ryanair who have shown the most interest in the Government’s stake of Aer Lingus. Ryanair have a policy of not handling air cargo across their entire fleet. If they succeed in buying this stake they are likely to drop air cargo handling. This is not a risk that should be taken with any potential buyer of a majority stake in Aer Lingus.

“It was certainly an eye-opener for Mr Varadkar. We did get the impression the Government hoped that British Competition Authority will block a sale of the stake to Ryanair but this is not a sensible way for the Government to proceed when one of its key strategic assets is at stake.

“Sitting on our hands and hoping is not the way to go,” Mr Whelan said.

Aer Lingus flights to the US carry about 52% of the value of Irish exports and 43% of all imports from the US. The €18bn of pharmaceutical and medical technology that is exported by airfreight to the US is most at risk. “Let us not forget this is our largest export market as well as our main source of foreign direct investment,” Mr Whelan said.

“We want certainty for our investors. Whether Ryanair is the buyer or not we believe it should not be sold.”

The Irish Exporters Association is compiling a report detailing various industries’ dependence on the trade route, which will be presented to the Government next month.

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