Airport jobs impasse - Coughlan must find a solution

THE hundreds of thousands of unemployed people — 434,700 last week — watching the bun fight between the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and Ryanair are entitled to be angry.

Everyone in this country looking for work and everyone who needs this country to rebuild its economy should be angry.

This stand-off seems to be an outbreak of petulance we can ill afford. Not only does it jeopardise the prospect of securing jobs for Dublin, it makes us all look like idiots. If this row cannot be resolved quickly — and there is just a chance that it might — and the jobs secured, we may deserve to be so considered.

Michael O’Leary is a divisive character; his style is abrasive and he does not do touchy feely. There are unattractive, spiky, traits to his character. He imagines he cajoles but it is just as easy to see him as a bully. Compromise does not come easily to him. But he, more than any other Irish figure, gets the job done.

Ryanair is now the largest airline in the world and represents the greatest business success achieved by any Irish company.

Ryanair’s great achievements would not have been realised without his forcefulness. His track record is stellar and demands that he be taken seriously. At the very least you respond to his calls, at the very least you take his proposals seriously.

If he — or anyone else — comes calling promising 500 good jobs you listen and do all that is possible to reach an agreement. If that means sidelining a semi-State monopoly that has a dysfunctional relationship with Ryanair then so be it. The circumstances of this collapse are irrelevant, securing the jobs is the priority. The DAA and Ryanair do not have a functioning relationship — Michael O’Leary yesterday described it as mutually poisonous. That is unfortunate but is of little relevance to the 500 former SRT workers who might find work if Ryanair reached a deal at Dublin airport. Neither is it of any relevance to the economy. Sadly, it is a great disadvantage to Ireland and a comfort to other countries trying to secure Ryanair jobs.

Scotland has already benefited.

Minister Mary Coughlan’s response yesterday morning — “Indeed I will not call Mr O’Leary” — was not reassuring. Would she, as Mr O’Leary sniped, respond to a foreign businessman offering to create 500 jobs in the same way? Let’s hope not.

She may find it a bitter pill to swallow, and the DAA board may be offended, but she has little option but to involve herself directly. Last evening’s suggestion that she was about to are welcome but what a pity that such a shabby knock-and-drag was needed to action.

Ms Coughlan and her relevant colleagues must now move to rebuild a relationship between the DAA and Ryanair. We cannot have a situation where the world’s biggest airline and the DAA do not work well together. Tough choices will have to be made but Ireland needs Ryanair more than it needs the DAA. That may not be as we might wish but it is our reality.

It is unimaginable that we reached this sorry point without contributions from all parties involved but if we cannot secure whatever jobs are on offer the future looks very bleak. The solution to this needless impasse seems to lie in Ms Coughlan’s hands, therefore last night’s suggestion that she is to meet Mr O’Leary today is very welcome. All, it seems, may not be lost yet.


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