I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 214 together.
My Department is engaging in an ongoing process in Aer Rianta in connection with the Government's decision of last July to restructure the company. I will expand on this process in my replies to more specific questions tabled today. With regard to Aer Lingus, my Department is in regular contact with the company about a range of matters, including its performance in the future.
With regard to the future options for Aer Lingus, I have previously advised the House that in light of the continuing turnaround in the company's finances and the continually changing environment, last July I asked the chairman of Aer Lingus to examine and report back to me on the future options for the company. At a meeting on 16 September 2003, the chairman furnished his report to me in which it was indicated that a private sector investment process should be initiated without delay. I also commissioned an independent corporate finance consultant to examine the sale options for Aer Lingus, taking account of the Aer Lingus report. In summary, he has supported the mechanisms proposed in the chairman's report.
I recently advised my Cabinet colleagues of the current state of my deliberations concerning the future of Aer Lingus. I also advised that I will be reverting to Government on specific options for the company in the near future. My deliberations involve detailed consideration of the reports from Aer Lingus and the independent corporate finance consultant as well as a thorough examination of all options for the future of the company.