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11 October 2007 Edition

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Government stance on Shannon/Aer Lingus debacle "pitiful"

Pearse Doherty

Pearse Doherty

Speaking on Wednesday afternoon following Transport Minister Noel Dempsey’s address to the Seanad, Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty said the government’s Shannon Heathrow motion in the Dáil at the end of last month was “pitiful”.
Their belated sympathy and lack of action is of scant consolation to the people in the Mid-West.
“Some Aer Lingus workers will lose their jobs, some will have reduced pay and conditions, the people of the Mid West region will lose their direct access to Heathrow, one of the world’s most important hubs.
“As an island nation without a national carrier our strategic interests are being negatively affected. Government claims to have any sort or regional development policy have been exposed as shambolic”, Doherty said.
 “Successive Fianna Fáil led governments have created a new partition on the island, with the West having become the very poor cousin of the East. Government has paid lip service to developing the Western seaboard and surrounding regions.
“Apart from the loss of existing jobs and substantial damage to tourism, the creation of thousands of future jobs will also be sacrificed. Businesses are already putting their investment and expansion plans on hold as a direct result of this Aer Lingus pull-out”, he said.
Doherty called on the government to learn the true meaning of delivering balanced regional development saying that with the government’s laissez-faire policies there is a real danger that the West will be turned into an economic wasteland.
“Sinn Féin has demanded a comprehensive all-Ireland aviation policy that ensures airports and associated developments provide economic investment and stability for all the regions of the island”, Doherty said.
 “I would like to remind Minister Dempsey that he stated on the 27 September last year in the Dáil chamber that ‘As a government, we have a responsibility to make the mid-west region as attractive as possible to international investors’. It is difficult to comprehend how he believes the government’s inaction on Shannon can progress this responsibility”, the Sinn Féin Seantor said.
Meanwhile Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin has expressed concern at the action of Aer Lingus this week in suspending pilots who refused to participate in training of recruits for its Belfast base as a protest at the company’s different pay scales for Belfast based crew.
McLaughlin said the company’s action could only be described as confrontational and would further escalate the dispute with the unions concerned.
“This is a direct result of  the Aer Lingus decision to employ staff to be based in Belfast under different, and it seems, disadvantageous terms and conditions. Clearly this decision is discouraging staff from locating from other bases on the island and therefore creates further obstacles to mobility of workers on the island. One of the key objectives of the administrations North and South through the all-Ireland Ministerial Council has been to build an island economy and to remove any obstacles to mobility for workers within the island.
“The actions of Aer Lingus in creating different pay scales and working conditions for staff at its Belfast base than those pertaining to existing staff in the rest of the island are contrary to what the Executive in Belfast and government in Dublin are attempting to achieve. In the spirit of the new dispensation that we are all trying to bed down, I would appeal to Aer Lingus to reappraise its decision to introduce differing pay scales on the island of Ireland and to desist from actions that will further exacerbate the situation”, he said.

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