Shane Ross

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25% Aer Lingus Share Puts Government On A Spit

Posted on: September 27th, 2007

Many politicians seem to think we can interfere with every operational decision made by Aer Lingus. Whether we like it or not Aer Lingus was privatised some time ago. We cannot allow ourselves to be used by lobby groups left, right and centre for every decision it makes.

Will we regard it as a semi-State organisation, over which the State still has ownership, every time it opens or closes routes? Will we let the Cork lobby, the Shannon lobby or the Dublin lobby interfere in the workings of this House over what is a privatised company? It is time we realised that debate is over. Aer Lingus must be allowed to make its own commercial decisions – that is the world in which it now lives and it should be allowed to be relatively free from political interference.

One of the great fears of many of us who were in favour of the privatisation of Aer Lingus was that the retention of the 25% stake would be used as some sort of lever to interfere on a daily basis with the workings of Aer Lingus and that is what is happening now. I do not blame the Shannon lobby, first for doing its work and, second, for making politicians speak in its favour.

The real debate should be on whether we should continue to hold the 25% stake, because that is a skewer, a hook and a spit on which the Government is now stuck. The sooner we get rid of that stake the less we will face the pressure to interfere with the commercial decisions of Aer Lingus.

Those who refer to Aer Lingus as the national airline are, unfortunately for them and uncomfortably for others, wrong. We no longer have a national airline, following the decision taken. If we have one, it is based abroad, but it is Ryanair. It is unpalatable for many but that is the biggest airline operator. We should give up the idea that the Dáil and the Seanad have ownership of Aer Lingus and can interfere with it every day.