25 October 2007 Edition

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Limerick rally backs Shannon-Heathrow link

THOUSANDS of protesters rallying in Limerick City on Saturday, 20 October, demanded action to retain a Shannon-Heathrow air service. Sinn Féin Limerick East’s Maurice Quinlivan, Nenagh Town Councillor Seamus Morris and North Kerry TD Martin Ferris attended the rally.
Maurice Quinlivan said that successive Fianna Fáil-led governments have continuously treated the mid-west region in its entirety as an afterthought. Investment in infrastructure, public services, job creation and community safety have all fallen far short of what is needed to sustain the region.
Quinlivan said that now, more than ever, people need to actively demand that the current government puts in place a coherent and deliverable regional development plan for the mid-west. Securing Aer Lingus’s commitment to Shannon Airport must be part of this plan.
“The decision to privatise Aer Lingus was not in the best interest of the Irish people,” he said.  “Sinn Féin supports the Aer Lingus workers in their fight to maintain job security, terms and conditions. There should be no regional disparity in wage agreements by any company operating anywhere on the island of Ireland. Such an arrangement flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement.
“Aer Lingus has a strategic part to play in ensuring international connectivity for regional airports throughout the 32 Counties is sustained, thus making certain the island’s tourism industry is not adversely affected. The Government, with its golden share and three board of management seats, must start to exercise its backbone in this job of work.”
Speaking in the Dáil two days before the rally, Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan demanded that Transport Minister Noel Dempsey come to the chamber to explain how the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) was aware of Aer Lingus’s plans to drop its Shannon-Heathrow route before the official announcement but failed to inform the Shannon Airport authorities.
The DAA, which operates Shannon Airport, was told the airline was considering ending the route by an official from the Department of Transport on 13 June. It never sent the information to management at Shannon.
Last week, Noel Dempsey said that “human error” was the reason for the delay in informing him that Aer Lingus was considering moving its service to Belfast some six weeks after it first emerged.
Dempsey said there was a document in his department on 13 June which had been released under the Freedom of Information legislation. It had been headed “For the information of the Minister”. Neither he nor his predecessor had received it, he said.
Sinn Féin’s Arthur Morgan said:
“Considering the level of correspondence on the issue and a clear acceptance of the political nature of the airline’s decision, it is really hard to fathom how the entire government was kept in the dark for the following full six weeks.”   

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