Aer Lingus motion criticised

by Shane Dillon

AN EMERGENCY motion calling for Aer Lingus to be taken back into public ownership was passed at a recent meeting of Fingal County Council by 12 votes to 11, with several abstentions.
This follows the Government decision to sell the remaining 25% of shares held by the State in the airline after 75% was sold a number of years ago during Fianna Fail’s time in office.
The meeting was a special sitting dedicated to dealing with motions, so the full number of councillors was not present at the meeting. The casting vote was made by the Mayor of Fingal, Mags Murray (FF), which has led to accusations of political cynicism and opportunism on the part of Fianna Fail.
Cllr Keith Redmond (FG) said he was shocked by Fianna Fail’s stance, saying: “It’s rank political cynicism. This is the very party that sold 75% of Aer Lingus, sold Eircom and sold so many previously State-owned assets, and now they’re saying it should be renationalised because the general election is coming up and they want to win a few votes.”
He added that he believed selling the remaining shares was the best option as IAG, the British group buying the shares, has given the State a guarantee of veto over the company’s board for seven years.
He said this would allow the Government to veto any decisions IAG might make which would hurt workers – a power it does not have over the Aer Lingus board.
Senator Darragh O’Brien (FF) reacted to Cllr Redmond’s remarks, saying they were “a load of nonsense” and that he didn’t heed most of what Cllr Redmond said. He believed that the IAG guarantee was not worth the paper it was printed on.
He said: “The reality of it was that when the 75% stake was sold, that was reinvested in the company to make it viable and it actually worked.”
Meanwhile, Niall Shanahan, Impact’s trade union representative for Aer Lingus workers, said the decision to sell the remaining stake “kicks open the door on a process that will see the privatisation of the airline completed”.
Registered employment legislation to ensure industrial relations agreements made between workers and employers are legally binding and is due to be passed by this mid-year.
Shanahan said they would look to use this to achieve the commitments Aer Lingus gave to workers should privatisation go ahead.

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