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6 September 2007 Edition

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Opposition alliance needed on Aer Lingus dispute

Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has written to the leader of the Fine Gael Enda Kenny and the acting leader of the Labour Party Liz McManus in a bid to form a political alliance against the Aer Lingus decision to withdraw its Shannon-Heathrow route and in support of the Aer Lingus workers’ demands for equal pay and conditions across the island.
Last week Sinn Féin Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald led a party delegation that included Martin Ferris TD and party representatives from the mid-western region to meet with the Shannon Action Group.
The hope is that collectively Sinn Féin, Fine Gael and the Labour Party can maximise pressure on the Government to use its 25.1% share in Aer Lingus in the strategic economic interest of the state, as was promised on numerous occasions, including in the Dáil Chamber last year by the Taoiseach, by the then Minister for Transport Martin Cullen TD and by Minister of State Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher TD.
The Irish Government can, under company law, demand an EGM and it would be negligent of it not to do so. The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has a responsibility to the mid western-region to seek to direct the Aer Lingus Board of Management to secure the future of the route.
With Aer Lingus management clearly pursuing a race to the bottom pay structure it is important that the Government ensures that pay and conditions are harmonised across the island. This should also be the objective of any new political alliance of the opposition in Leinster House on this issue.
It is clear that this whole issue has caused internal disputes within the Fianna Fáil Party and it is not unlikely that there could be division in that party if and when it comes to a vote in the Dáil. This makes it all the more vital that there is a united opposition as there would then be a very real possibility that it could force the Government to demand an EGM to reverse a disastrous decision.
Meanwhile Dublin Sinn Féin Councillor Dessie Ellis has received unanimous support this week from Dublin City Council for an emergency motion which he proposed jointly with his colleague, Councillor Christy Burke that calls on Senior Management at Aer Lingus to reverse the Shannon decision.

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