Coughlan bows to pressure to meet O'Leary

Under-fire Tánaiste Mary Coughlan tonight agreed to meet Ryanair boss Micheal O’Leary to try to secure 300 jobs promised by the budget carrier.

Ms Coughlan finally buckled under public pressure after Mr O’Leary maintained Government had done nothing to win a new maintenance base at the old SR Technics site.

The budget carrier chief claimed he planned to create 500 engineering posts at Dublin Airport – but has already transferred 200 of those jobs to Scotland.

Mr O’Leary, who refuses to deal with the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), said the remaining 300 positions could be kept in Ireland if the Tánaiste acts as intermediary.

A spokeswoman for Ms Coughlan confirmed her office had been in touch with the airline boss and that the pair will meet tomorrow.

SR Technics closed last April at Dublin Airport with the loss of 1,100 jobs in aircraft maintenance.

The no-frills airline boss said some jobs could be secured in Dublin if the Tánaiste urged DAA to sell or lease Hanger 6, formerly used by SR Technics, to Ryanair.

The DAA said Hanger 6 has already been leased to Aer Lingus but that it would build new facilities or accommodate Ryanair elsewhere.

But Mr O’Leary wants DAA to relocate the Aer Lingus maintenance operation to one of two other empty smaller hangers at the airport and demanded Ms Coughlan intervene.

“At a time when 800 former SR Technics engineers are on the dole, it is remarkable that this Minister for Enterprise has failed to do the one simple thing which is required to win a multi-million euro investment from Ryanair and which would create up to 300 jobs in the large Hangar 6 facility at Dublin Airport,” he said.

In a letter to Mr O’Leary the Tánaiste said the Government was anxious to secure further investment by Ryanair at Dublin or any Irish airport.

“The IDA, in the first instance, are available immediately, as are the DAA, to continue discussions with Ryanair,” Ms Coughlan wrote.

“The IDA are satisfied to continue to act as broker and point of contact for Ryanair.

“It has been possible in the very recent past to secure new investment in aircraft maintenance facilities at Dublin Airport and I would hope that with goodwill on all sides we can secure new investment here by Ryanair.”

Opposition parties said the Government let the jobs slip by at a time when the economy most needed it.

Labour Party Enterprise spokesman Willie Penrose said no stone should be left unturned to secure the jobs.

“It is time for the Tánaiste to put petty rivalries, sensitivities and red tape aside so that we can make sure that these jobs are delivered and so that the massive skill base that exists among former SRT workers can be used to the greatest extent possible,” Mr Penrose said.

Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd said it would be a tragedy if these 300 jobs are lost to Ireland.

“The Tánaiste and Minister Dempsey should immediately pick up the phone and offer to negotiate between DAA and Ryanair,” he added.

“I am convinced a deal can be done.”

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