7 June 2001 Edition
Save Aer Lingus from ``corporate pirates''
Commenting on Tuesday's meeting meeting between the Minister for Public Enterprise Mary O'Rourke and the Aer Lingus trade unions and business interests, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said his party was ``totally opposed'' to any form of privatisation of Aer Lingus. ``This airline belongs to the Irish people and is a valuable and strategic national asset,'' he said. ``Privatisation will allow corporate pirates to plunder a company built up over decades by Irish taxpayers and Irish commuters who have supported the national airline.
``Sinn Féin is totally opposed to the privatisation of Aer Lingus and other state companies and will campaign vigorously on this issue in the forthcoming general election. The Eircom deb‰cle and the millions made by speculators such as Denis O'Brien demonstrate the folly of the privatisation agenda. This form of Thatcherism should have no place in Irish politics.''
The board of Eircom has yet to recommend to its shareholders which group of transnational vultures should snap up the company. Meanwhile, a bidding war between Tony O'Reilly and George Soros' Valentia group and Denis O'Brien's eIsland consortium has driven up the Eircom share price as the market and the media fixes on the value of the company as being the sole issue at stake in the sale of the former public sector company.
Surely we should be hearing, in the widest possible public domain, what plans each of the prospective new owners have for investing in the company's cable network, especially the much needed upgrades to install broadband fibre optic cable networks throughout the state. Also, do any of bidders plan redundancies at the company?
What plans do they have for ensuring there is equal access throughout the state to the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that broadband cable will bring? At the very least these are some of the concerns that should be articulated by both the Dublin government and the Eircom employees, both substantial shareholders in the company.
The fact that we are not hearing of these issues shows that little or nothing has been learnt since the last debacle of Eircom's stock market sell off in 1999.
``Their economic policies would destroy the country and the economy and create huge unemployment again''. Yes, it's Mary Harney indulging in Sinn Féin bashing which usually comes after another abysmal showing in the opinion polls for the Progressive Democrats.
Sinn Féin has, according to Harney. ``extremely left wing policies that have been abandoned by others''. They are ``anti foreign investment'' and want ``huge corporate taxes''.
Even though half of the PD voters surveyed would accept Sinn Féin in a coalition government, Harney still found reason to lash out at the party while showing that she clearly has no knowledge of the Sinn Féin policies.
Sinn Féin does not oppose foreign investment but wants to promote indigenous enterprise and socially-led community-owned business side by side with international investment. Is this so extreme?
Mary Harney didn't seem to think so last May when praising Irish-owned companies. She said: ``The Irish-owned internationally traded services sector is a key growth area, which contributes substantially to wealth creation and employment growth.'' Obviously this is the sort of extremism Mary was warning about.
On tax, Sinn Féin wants an equitable system where the low paid are taken out of the tax net and there is equality between taxes on workers and taxes on profits? Is Mary Harney saying she is against tax equality?