I strongly support amendment No. 4 in the name of Deputy Crowe. There is no good reason for the privatisation of Aer Lingus. It is a premier State company that has been built by the taxpayers of this country and by the commitment of a dedicated workforce over many decades. In reality there has been little State investment for most of those decades.
What is driving the Minister for Transport's proposal to bring the Aer Lingus Bill before the Dáil to provide for the inevitable privatisation of this premier State-owned company? It is clear that the Government is driven purely by the Minister's ideological commitment to a right-wing economic policy whereby he believes that crucial public assets should be transferred to big business interests. This is exactly what he is trying to do with Dublin Bus and what he also wishes to do in future with Aer Rianta.
The ownership of a critical air transport facility is of great importance to an island nation. The Minister should not pretend that the Bill does not relate to privatisation. We know that is his agenda. We know from the experience of almost seven years of these parties in government that this is the Government's agenda.
What is the experience of other crucial State assets and semi-State and publicly owned companies that have been privatised? Within a short period of time they find their way into the hands of major multinational corporations and become the playthings of international speculators and major multinational corporations.
It will be one of the shameful legacies of the Government that, for example, our telecommunications industry should have been handed over in this way to millionaires, tax exile billionaires and people who have no commitment to the welfare of the majority of people in the State. Giving a crucial air transport facility in an island nation over to these forces is particularly dangerous for the future of Irish air transport. If their commitment to greater profits dictate that services are cut back or otherwise changed and rationalised the welfare or needs of the Irish travelling public will not be the main priority.
What the Government has allowed to happen has been a source of great scandal to the majority of taxpayers. The rainbow Government gave the crucial mobile phone licence for a song to an individual who was able to speculate with it and walk away with a personal fortune of £250 million. These resources properly belong to the people. It demeans our society that Eircom, for example, and other important industries that were once in public ownership are now merely the subject of fights and contests between various sharks operating in the world economy.
The idea of people piloting the company, which they have been given in trust to run for the people, towards privatisation raises critical ethical issues, which need to be debated. It is impermissible that leading executives in Aer Lingus should move to assist the privatisation of a premier State-owned company when they stand to gain massively from that privatisation, which is exactly what happened with the privatisation of Telecom. It is immoral and should not be allowed.
In the seven years of the Government parties being in office, we have seen a tendency develop in the public sector whereby individuals with no commitment to maintaining public ownership of these companies are looking at the vast riches they can personally make for themselves through their privatisation. That is fundamentally wrong.
As a preparation for privatisation we saw the values and brutal methods of the anti-union companies in public air transport being brought to bear in Aer Lingus in recent times. This was an attempt to relentlessly worsen the conditions of workers who have given such great commitment, instead of bringing Aer Lingus workers to the heart of the management of the company and putting in the necessary State investment to this State-owned company, and to develop it for the benefit of ordinary people in an affordable way. The trade union movement and the ICTU should wholeheartedly support amendment No. 4. The idea of a certain cohort of share ownership for workers is trap for those workers. It is a cynical attempt by the Government that tries to foist privatisation on the workforce. I remind the Government that this company belongs to the entirety of the people. We have seen this company develop in public ownership. It is not in the ownership of the Government or any other sector. A proposal that goes any step towards privatisation should be rejected out of hand.