While Senator Mary White remains on the warpath (see article here), Bertie Ahern should count himself lucky there is no currently identifiable Mrs Ahern. Senator White may have an unusual political approach to her opponents but she has hita chord on Aer Lingus. Her outspoken stance on the
The Aer Lingus decision to abandon
As if Finian travelling on Ryanair was not bad enough, now the same airline’s super capitalist boss, Michael O’Leary, is flirting with the trades unions. He is supporting the bearded brethrens’ cause in
O’Leary will force the Government to do handstands at the EGM he has called in the coming weeks. Poor Bertie Ahern will be compelled to vote the State’s 25pc stake against the interests of the workers and the demands of the
All very confusing. Whatever happened to business principles or political convictions? They have been jettisoned. Money in the pocket talks loudest. Pride comes second. Political survival is a close third.
Yet in the middle of all the cant and hypocrisy one genius emerges. Michael O’Leary of Ryanair has snookered the Government, challenged the employees’ shareholding group (ESOT), put Denis O’Brien’s 3pc shareholding under an unwelcome spotlight and made Aer Lingus management look like monkeys. He has exposed the whole basis of last year’s sale of Aer Lingus as a hypocritical piece of political fraud.
The very first attempt by the partly privatised airline to operate as a commercial outfit has landed the nation in a political crisis. The Taoiseach has disappeared. At least one Cabinet minister, Willie O’Dea, is in open rebellion. Now we know why Aer Lingus was sold for so little; because it was worth so little. It is no normal airline. The Government monkey is still on its back. Willie O’Dea is kicking up. Mary White is in rebellion. And there will be plenty more twists before Michael’s EGM is held in early October.
The EGM will expose the privatisation as a monumental flop. A priceless asset was sold for a pittance. The reluctance of scores of global investors to buy shares in the airline was palpable at the time. The reason: their fear that the company might become a political battlefield. How right they were. War broke out earlier than they expected. The flotation fiasco allowed the airline’s nemesis, Michael O’Leary, to wreak immediate mayhem within its ranks.
Early weakness in the shares offered Michael the opening to hoover up a huge stake. He is now the ringmaster, owning more stock than the Government. He has called the EGM and is challenging Bertie either to back Aer Lingus management and suffer political damage, or to send the airline down the non -commercial road. Bertie has a choice between serious political flak or a share price collapse.
Bertie’s mealy-mouthed insistence on holding onto a quarter of the company is a spectacular own goal. He is reaping the whirlwind. If the Government had sold the entire company today’s crisis would have been avoided. It kept 25pc to appease the comrades, to retain the right to veto nasty commercial developments like a Ryanair takeover, a foreign dawn raid or even an assault on
Aer Lingus was to remain a comfort zone for the featherbedded semi-state employees. Now Bertie cannot afford to keep his promises. Today a whole region is up in arms. The rebels smell blood. Ryanair is poised to become a hero of the workers in
O’Leary is a genius. All his enemies are now in disarray. And his wife Anita is safe, happily positioned on the same side as the redoubtable senator Mary White.