Dempsey: Time to move on after Aer Lingus cutbacks

It was time to move on from the fall-out over Aer Lingus’s controversial cutbacks at Shannon, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said today.

It was time to move on from the fall-out over Aer Lingus’s controversial cutbacks at Shannon, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said today.

Even though a report by a top civil servant found she herself failed to warn the Minister of the possible pull-out, Mr Dempsey said he had full faith in the integrity of his staff.

Julie O’Neill, Department of Transport secretary general, admitted she knew on June 13, six weeks before Mr Dempsey, of the threatened Shannon withdrawal but did not brief him.

“As you can see in the report in a number of different places the information was not passed on to me,” the Minister said.

“I’m accepting the report, I’m accepting the apology from officials involved in that and we are going to get on with our business.

“We have a lot of things on the agenda in the Department of Transport and I think it’s important that we move on.”

The report found Ms O’Neill spoke to Aer Lingus chairman John Sharman on June 15 and who made it very clear no decision had been taken on Shannon. But she did not pass this vital information on to Mr Dempsey during a briefing at the department offices.

Another note addressed to Mr Dempsey, and also with crucial information, was not passed on to him by the Department’s assistant secretary John Murphy.

Fine Gael branded the report a whitewash and along with Labour called for an independent investigation into the fiasco.

Mr Dempsey said he accepted a mistake was made but that the switching of valuable Heathrow slots from Shannon to Belfast probably could not have been stopped,

“In the long run it would not have made any difference to Aer Lingus’s stance because they have made this decision on a commercial basis and I think we need to move on,” he said.

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