Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (112, 117, 181, 182)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

112. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the strategic value he puts on the State’s holding in Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8535/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

117. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his intentions with regard to the Government stake in Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8561/13]

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Olivia Mitchell

Question:

181. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the implications of a takeover of Aer Lingus by Ryanair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8396/13]

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Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

182. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the implications of a takeover of Aer Lingus by Ryanair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8462/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112, 117, 181 and 182 together.

These questions relate to the State Shareholding in Aer Lingus, and the  Ryanair's Offer for Aer Lingus.

In relation to the issue of strategic value of the Aer Lingus stake, I refer the Deputies to my earlier response to the priority question. In relation to the Ryanair Offer for that stake, it is the Government's strongly held view that a takeover of Aer Lingus by Ryanair would have a significant detrimental effect on competition, connectivity and employment in the Irish market.

Promoting competition among airlines serving the Irish market is at the heart of the Government’s aviation strategy and the continued presence of at least two strong competing airlines serving Ireland’s air transport needs is regarded as important. At the moment, we are fortunate to have two very strong and profitable airlines operating in Ireland and the competitive dynamic between the two companies has brought significant benefits for Irish consumers.  The Government wants to see continued competition in the market.

Following detailed consideration of the most recent offer by Ryanair for Aer Lingus the Government announced in December 2012 that it was not prepared to support the Offer because of the significant negative impact the offer would have on Ireland's air transport market.  The European Commission is conducting a detailed examination of the Offer under the EU Merger Control Rules and it has consulted a wide range of stakeholders, including my Department, on the remedies packages put forward by Ryanair to address the competition concerns identified by the Commission. Many of the details of these remedies are already in the public domain but it is not open to me to discuss them.

The deadline for the European Commission's decision in this case is March 6th.  Notwithstanding recent media reports of the outcome of the Commission's investigation the Government awaits the Commission's formal decision which we expect in the coming weeks.