Shane Ross


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Wanted: Two Political Patsies To Manacle Mannion

Posted on: October 15th, 2007

Joe O’Toole, my independent colleague in the Seanad, stuck his tongue firmly in his cheek last week and suggested that the two, as yet unknown, new directors of Aer Lingus should be questioned and ratified by a Seanad committee. Good suggestion, but it has as much chance of being accepted by the Government as has my own proposal that party politicians should stop appointing judges.

Many innocent shareholders believe that Aer Lingus left the state sector at flotation time. Last week, it emerged that one of the most independent members of the cabinet, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, is on the point of naming two new directors. It is not Noel’s style to promote patsies, but true to form, Bertie will seize this sinecure for a couple of reliable party loyalists.

The two patsies will be well paid for taking orders from Fianna Fail.

Last week Minister Dempsey expressed the Government’s “disappointment” at Dermot Mannion’s decision to abandon Shannon Airport for Belfast. He even thundered that the Government expected Aer Lingus to “take wider policy issues into account in making commercial decisions”.

Hence the need for two patsies. Just to be sure. Mannion has gone walkabout. Good for him. Mannion is finally showing a bit of bottle. He is cornered and friendless. Suddenly, he is surrounded by an unholy combination of hostile shareholders.

The Government (25 per cent) is “disappointed” with him; the pilots and their pension fund (4 per cent) are at war with him; the unions – represented by the ESOT trust (14 per cent) – are facing a watershed confrontation with him; while his nemesis, Michael O’Leary of Ryanair (28 per cent) is not just challenging his strategy as a dissident shareholder, but is also giving him a daily headache on the ground at Dublin Airport.

Mannion is calm as a cucumber under pressure. He has probably finally decided to confront the shenanigans of Siptu and Impact who have held the travelling public to ransom for decades.

Alternatively, perhaps he is a classic candidate for the distortion of that well-known Rudyard Kipling poem:


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
Then you haven’t a bull’s notion what is going on.