The appointment is surprising as Transport Minister Seamus Brennan is preparing legislation to break Aer Rianta into three separate companies next year to run its three airports.
The board could have asked Mr Burke to stay on while the corporate entity is broken up. Mr Burke is highly respected in the aviation industry and is president of the airport industry body ACI EUROPE. He was paid 315,000 in 2002, according to the company’s annual report. Legislation to split the State-owned company in three was expected before Christmas but is not expected to be introduced until the New Year.
Once the legislation is passed Aer Rianta will become three separate companies with their own management and local boards.
Mr Brennan has already appointed Jefferson Smurfit chief executive Gary McGann as chairman of Dublin Airport Authority, with Joe Gantly of Apple chairing Cork airport and Patrick Shanahan chairing Shannon.
Aer Rianta chairman Noel Hanlon said the board was delighted to have somebody of Ms Sweeney’s calibre and experience to lead the group through these challenging times. “Margaret has contributed an enormous amount of energy, time and business acumen to the wide range of senior management roles for which she has held responsibility across the group. My fellow directors and I have the utmost confidence in her strategic leadership abilities and wish her every success ,” he said in a statement.
“We are pleased that John has agreed to remain as an advisor to the group during the ongoing restructuring process that has followed the Government’s decision on the future of the Aer Rianta airports in Ireland.”
From Kilcar, Donegal, Ms Sweeney, 43, has a BComm from NUI Galway, is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland and was previously a director of KPMG. She joined Aer Rianta in 1997 and has held various senior roles within the group including company secretary and deputy chief executive. Mr Hanlon himself will retire from Aer Rianta next year when his second five-year term expires. Over the years Mr Hanlon has been embroiled in several bitter arguments with Ryanair’s colourful chief executive Michael O’Leary.
Yesterday it repeated its call for the Government to speed the break-up of Aer Rianta and to approve the construction of an independent terminal at Dublin Airport.