As the Deputy will be aware, the European Commission is conducting a detailed examination of Ryanair's offer for Aer Lingus under EU Merger Control Rules.
Following detailed consideration of the most recent offer by Ryanair for Aer Lingus the Government decided that it was not prepared to support the offer because of the significant negative impact that the Government considers the offer would have on competition, connectivity and employment in the Irish air transport market.
As part of its examination of the offer, the European Commission 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 in its initial review. Many of the details of these remedies have been reported in the media and as reported, they do not satisfy the Government's concern about connectivity, competition or employment. The Government has made this point on a number of occasions, including in my public statement of the 12th of February 2013.
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.
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.