Privateers can’t have it both ways

IT is the height of hypocrisy for Fine Gael, the employers’ group IBEC, the Small Firms’ Association and other conservative elements to bemoan the decision of Aer Lingus to end its Shannon-Heathrow connection.

This is what you get from privatisation, which these interests supported. As pointed out by the Aer Lingus workers, their unions and the rest of us who opposed privatisation, a private company acts in the interests of its shareholders and directors. National interest, society and employees are very much a secondary consideration.

Have these free marketeers learned nothing from the obvious lessons of eircom? Before privatisation, we had, through State investment, one of the most advanced digitally-switched telecoms systems in Europe. Now, due to lack of investment, we have to endure one of the most backward and expensive. A private monopoly controls the landlines and exchanges and has delayed unbundling local loops to allow access to others. The net result is that we have one of the lowest penetrations of broadband in the EU, with worrying implications for future economic success (when the property boom ends). On the mobile side, Eircell was sold off for a song at a time when wireless communication was about to take off. Now we have an effective duopoly with the highest mobile charges in Europe and pre-paid users in border areas and those crossing the border still being hit with massive roaming charges.

The ESB is next to be fattened up for privatisation. The company wants to reduce prices to consumers and industry, but the energy ‘regulator’ says prices must be kept artificially high to promote competition.

Cllr Ray Corcoran



Dublin 11

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