Enda Kenny ‘flip-flopping’ on airline sale

The Government has been accused of flip-flopping on the sale of Aer Lingus.

Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley claimed that the IAG bid to buy out the airline had caught ministers by surprise and they did not have a coherent plan to deal with it.

Mr Dooley told the Dáil that, up to the weekend, the Government had made it clear it would be willing to sell its 25.1% stake in the airline if the price was right.

He accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of suddenly getting “divine inspiration” and realising the negative impacts such a sale would have on the country.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe insisted he could not give a firm view about the bid by IAG, which owns British Airways, until full details are known.

“What is at stake here is far more than the price of a share,” Mr Donohoe said.

“It is only when I’m in a position to report back to the Cabinet and the Dáil with a comprehensive understanding of what has been proposed that I will be in a position to make a recommendation to government.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath told the Dáil that Shannon Airport, since its restructuring, held unfair advantages over Cork Airport.

Ryanair have transferred flights from Cork to Shannon, he told TDs, adding that Cork Airport’s capacity to compete is seriously limited as it cannot offer free services to carriers, or receive grant aid from the State.

Mr McGrath called for a major plan to combat the decline of Cork as a travel hub, and urged a re-examining of its control by the Dublin Airport Authority.

He also said assurances by IAG that it would keep the Ireland-Heathrow slots for five years are inadequate. “Any suggestion the Cork-Heathrow slots would be lost over time would be absolutely devastating for Cork, as, after five years, Cork could be first in the firing line for the loss of those slots,” Mr McGrath said,

Mr Donohoe said he did not have a direct role in the management of Cork Airport.

Meanwhile, Limerick Chamber said IAG’s commitments to the Irish Government do not alter business concerns over the potential loss of connectivity at Ireland’s three national airports.

Interim chief executive Órlaith Borthwick said: “As the largest business representative organisation in the Mid-West region, Limerick Chamber has concerns over the potential risk to our members of any reduction in the levels of connectivity that our region has to both Heathrow and North America.

“The reported additional commitments that IAG issued... do not fundamentally alter our concerns toward achieving balanced regional development and ensuring globally connected regions.”

Dr Borthwick said assurances that the Heathrow slots will not be sold do not guarantee the frequency of routes to Ireland’s airports, particularly at Shannon.


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