Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Darren O’Rourke TD, today questioned Minister Hildegarde Naughton on whether the uninvested proceeds from the sale of the state’s stake in Aer Lingus in 2015, could now be used by the state to buy a stake in the struggling airline.
Speaking from Leinster House this afternoon, Deputy O’Rourke said:
“The Connectivity Fund was established as a sub-fund of the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund in 2015, to invest the €335m proceeds from the sale of the State’s shareholding in Aer Lingus.
“According to figures I’ve now received from the Department of Finance, €245 million of the proceeds from the sale remain uninvested.
“Sinn Féin vehemently opposed the sale of the state’s 25% stake saying it would eventually result in job losses, a loss of connectivity, and crucially, a loss of say in how workers are treated at the airline.
“The current Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated these concerns, with the future of the airline now at stake.
“Workers are concerned that Aer Lingus’s parent company, IAG, may sacrifice the airline to save others in the group, such as British Airways.
“Workers in the aviation sector have already suffered severe cuts to their pay and conditions as a result of the collapse of international travel, and they are looking to the government for leadership and a national plan in this area going forward.
“I challenged Minister Hildegarde Naughton TD today on the silence from government in this area, and asked whether the government here have examined offering cash for equity in Aer Lingus, to sure it up, protect jobs and guard against the loss of important routes.
“Similar moves are happening internationally and are being permitted under the relaxed EU state aid rules during the pandemic.
“Earlier this year, the German state took a 20% stake in Lufthansa in exchange for a €9 billion rescue package.
“At the beginning of this month, the EU Commission approved another €200 million bailout for Alitalia, with the Italian government now retaking control of the airline.
“It’s important the state tries to protect as many jobs and route as possible, to ensure we have connectivity for travel, for business and for inward tourism that we will depend on for our recovery.
“There’s a quarter of a billion euro sitting in this Connectivity Fund from the sale of the state’s shares 5 years ago. Surely now is the time to examine whether this can be used to retake a state share in this important strategic airline.”