Concern among Coalition TDs to sale of 25% Aer Lingus stake

Minister gives commitment on connectivity, jobs when review group considers options

The Coalition is hardening its stance against the sale of the State shareholding in Aer Lingus after Labour and Fine Gael TDs expressed concerns about such a move at private party meetings.

Tánaiste Joan Burton told her parliamentary party she had yet to see any strong argument in favour of selling the State's 25 per cent to International Airlines Group (AIG).

However, she said people needed to be realistic about what the Government could do and pointed out that it could not block any deal.

Almost all of those present at Labour’s weekly parliamentary meeting expressed concerns about the sale, while a string of Fine Gael TDs and senators also spoke against it at their meeting.


Others across Government indicated a strengthening reluctance on the part of the Coalition to sell the shareholding so close to an election.

“There is a phrase in Government Buildings at the moment: this is a year-one issue, not a year-five issue,” said one Coalition source, hinting the Aer Lingus takeover was such an issue to be avoided as it approached an election.

Separately, two groups of TDs from each Government party held breakaway meetings to discuss the issue yesterday.

A group of Fine Gael deputies from the party's internal transport committee met Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe privately. Sources said Mr Donohoe gave a commitment that connectivity, jobs, competition and benefit to the wider economy would be considered by the review group appointed by the Cabinet. He also said price was not the main issue.

However, the weekly meetings of the Fine Gael and Labour parliamentary parties heard concern from TDs in Dublin, Cork and the Shannon and midwest regions on a potential sale. “If our parliamentary party is anything to go by there’s more chance of Aer Lingus being renationalised than the Government selling its share,” said one Labour source.

Among those to speak at the Labour meeting were north Dublin deputies John Lyons, Brendan Ryan and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. Motions were also tabled at the Fine Gael meeting from Kieran O'Donnell, a Limerick city TD, and Jerry Buttimer from Cork South-Central.