Omerta everywhere. Omerta between the feisty blonde bombshell, the Lady Appleby of
Omerta between the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and its downtown
In every instance, one party knew that Aer Lingus was poised to desert
What is going on?
Information is power. Civil servants nurture an inbuilt suspicion of politicians as ships that pass in the night. They are ingrained with a disciplined ethos to divulge a minimum of information. Once politicians are handed over the information, power passes into their more populist hands. They go walkabout with it. The civil service loses control.
Those are the dynamics of the trade-off between government and civil service. It has always been the same. Politicians happily buy into the deal because civil servants do the donkey work. But how did the DAA, the Government-owned airport monopoly, fail to inform either the government or its own subsidiary (
This is the real puzzle. Perhaps the answer is simple: in the semi-state aviation world, some players were in the loop. Others were not. Aer Lingus was in the
Worst of all,
The explanation may not be a comfortable one.
There has always been a cosy relationship between Aer Lingus and the DAA, formerly Aer Rianta. Much too cosy. They are joined at the hip. Until recently, directors of the DAA used to swan around the globe on Aer Lingus flights, free of charge. The two semi-bankrupt, semi-states traditionally shared an indifference to profit and to the sensitivities of the common people.
And like civil servants, they loved secrecy.
Today, Aer Lingus is desperately trying to wean itself away from the bosom of the State sector, but the DAA monopoly is still happily nesting in its warm womb. They are still blood brothers. Even today, post-Aer Lingus privatisation, staff at the DAA receive special concessions on Aer Lingus flights. A sweetheart deal has been agreed. And importantly, they share a common enemy in Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary.
Worse still, the DAA desperately needs Aer Lingus. When its long-trumpeted Terminal Two eventually opens Aer Lingus will be the DAA’s anchor customer. The old monopoly has burned its boats with Ryanair. It will cling to Aer Lingus boss Dermot Mannion like a mother clings to her wayward young.
So it was no problem for the DAA to do Aer Lingus a good turn and withhold vital information from its own subsidiary,
The monopoly’s excuse: the department of Transport had informed it of the Aer Lingus move “in strictest confidence” is pure baloney. You cannot keep a confidence from yourself.
The explanation is ugly. If the DAA had told
Aer Lingus needed surprise. Aer Lingus needed to spring the bad news at the height of the sleepy summer season. Early August was ideal. June was too early. By August the Dáil would be on holiday. Resistance was guaranteed to be at its weakest. It worked. The DAA’s treachery helped to blunt
The raw truth is worse: the DAA sees
I am looking forward to the next move. Luckily I am about to sit on a new all-party Oireachtas Committee on Transport. I am looking forward to asking DAA chairman Gary McGann, CEO Declan Collier, Dermot ‘Sir Humphrey’ McCarthy and Julie ‘Lady Appleby’ O’Neill to explain their omerta.
There was no conspiracy in the civil service. Omerta is their instinct. They tic-tac messages to each other like the Masonic Order. They believe that information must be withheld from the democratically elected politicians to preserve the power of the permanent government.
But the DAA has a more serious case to answer.