Private Members' Business: National Aviation Policy: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Spring on 27 October 1992:
That Dáil Éireann:
—recognising the vital strategic role occupied by Aer Lingus in the development of the national economy and the importance of maintaining Aer Lingus on a viable basis as the national airline;
—deeply concerned at the imminent crisis facing Aer Lingus;
—determined to ensure that the job potential of the company will be fully protected and that its overall contribution to the economy will be preserved in the long term; and
—acknowledging and appreciating the role played by Aer Lingus employees in particular in contributing to the maintenance of the company as a viable entry,
calls on the Government to prepare immediately a detailed national aviation policy to secure the future survival and development of the company as our national airline; to give an undertaking to provide the necessary equity capital to ensure that the equity base of the company is strong enough to enable Aer Lingus to compete effectively in the context of de-regulation; to publish the detailed policy by November 30th; and to undertake that no decision affecting employment in the company will be taken pending the publication of such a detailed and comprehensive policy.
Debate resumed on the following amendment:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:
"Dáil Éireann
—acknowledging the role played by Aer Lingus over the years in the development of Ireland's trade and tourism;
—appreciating the contribution of its employees over the years in enabling the airline to fulfil that role;
—recognising the serious financial difficulties currently facing Aer Lingus; —noting that it is a matter for the Board in the first instance to determine the urgent remedial action necessary to restore the airline to profitability; and
—noting the Government's objectives of job maintenance and job creation
supports the Government's air transport policy as being in the best interests of the Irish economy and supports the Government's view that the airline should maintain employment at the maximum possible level, consistent with maintaining a viable commercial operation."
—(Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications).

Deputy Carey was in possession.

Deputy Carey has asked that his time be ceded to Deputy Cosgrave.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank the Members of the House for allowing me to speak on this issue. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications have instructed Aer Lingus to seek a partner. Aer Lingus are a company handicapped by a debt of £580 million and they have lost £40 million over the past two years. They are also expected to lose £40 million this year on their core business.

The company operate on the fourth busiest route in the world and the second busiest route in Europe, i.e. the Dublin-London route. Aer Lingus lose £6 per seat for every passenger carried on this route which amounted to £20 million last year, a horrific loss. British Midland reported a profit of £1.5 million this year, Ryanair made a profit on their route to Stansted Airport, although the profits are wafer thin. Even though their aircraft are very old they are still able to make a profit because they do no supply trimmings like meals. They are competitive and make money, more power to them. They have also created competition on the London route, which is welcome.

There has been a downturn in passenger traffic since the Gulf War and, as a result of that — and the Shannon stopover — no partner in his right mind would buy into Aer Lingus. I will qualify my remarks; the regular businessman and frequent traveller, mainly tourists, from the east coast and midlands of Ireland travel to London, Manchester and Glasgow, for their trans-Atlantic flight which saves them the inconvenience of having to make two stops. By using the British airports they have only one stop in getting to their destination whereas, if they use Shannon, they have to make two stops. A businessman's time is very valuable, he is anxious to get to his markets in the USA and to sell there so his progress must not be impeded. It is a very serious matter for a businessman to lose two or three hours of his time. I have been told that it is cheaper for Irish people to travel from British airports on other airlines. Our national airline tries to compete but it is worrying to hear that other airlines can transport people to the USA more cheaply than our airline.

Aer Lingus employees have given marvellous service to the national airline over the years. However, those working in the airport — and who are constituents of mine — tell me the ludicrous travel arrangements which exist whereby Americans must fly into London, Manchester, Glasgow and Amsterdam before travelling to Dublin. Canadians and Americans from the west coast travel to Amsterdam and Paris and then to Dublin. It is obvious that if it costs tourists more to fly to Dublin they will go to other destinations, to where they can get the best deal. American tourists, as we know, select their destination and they like good value for money. When they know they have to fly to other airports before flying to Dublin they are put off, which is a loss to our tourist industry. Pan-American in their heyday, TWA, Air Florida and North West Airlines pulled out of Shannon and Dublin due to the Shannon stopover. Delta still fly here as they operate to Atlanta, the hub of their operations, and would not consider using New York or Boston. Air Canada have told Bord Fáilte that they will only operate in Ireland if they have direct flights in and out of Dublin. Germany, France, Italy and Spain have helped their national carriers. Why will the Government not help Aer Lingus? The airlines of the countries to which I referred are helped because their important function in bringing tourists to their countries is recognised.

The arrangements in relation to Aer Lingus price them out of the travel and tourist business. The Minister should help and support the national airline and their employees to overcome this depressing, indeed disastrous, situation which is not totally their fault, it was caused by circumstances outside their control. For a start, will the Minister consider reducing landing fees at Irish airports and ensure that there is a proper fare structure on all Aer Lingus routes? Many of my constituents work in Aer Lingus; I live in Baldoyle and many people in the area work with the company. They are worried and their morale is low. Some of them are newly married couples, they have bought new houses and taken out mortgages. They fear for their future and a morale problem in the company does not help. Others have been with the company for many years and have helped to build it up, they are at the stage now of sending their children to third level education. They too are worried for the future of their families, they wonder will it be their turn to lose a job if the company decide to lay off workers. They are naturally worried that they will end up on the dole and it is the Minister's responsibility to remember that.

Aer Lingus have been a good employer over the years, they worked very hard to ensure their survival but, at this stage, the employees are losing confidence. They have also read that the Minister and the Taoiseach have asked the directors of the board to enter into an arrangement to sell part of the airline to other companies. If that happened will it end like the B & I? When the Bill in relation to the B & I was being debated we on this side of the House asked that a 51 per cent share be retained by the employees. The way we put it was that a golden share would be held to enable the employees to have say in their future. However, they did not get that, the Government sold them out.

As a Dublin representative and as a man born and reared in Dublin, I will stand by my constituents and insist that the Taoiseach, the Minister and the Government do not sell out the employees of Aer Lingus, a company with 7,600 people on the payroll. Many of those employees come from my constituency. They have worked hard over the years to ensure that the company survived and that it made profits, and they are not to be sold down the river. The Taoiseach and the Minister should make sure that if they enter into an arrangement with some other company a golden share be held to ensure that the future of the employees is intact.

Finally, I put it to the Minister that any company that had the foresight to form companies such as GPA, PARC, Cara, Airmotive and TEAM, who created jobs at a fraction of the cost that it costs the IDA to create jobs in this day and age, should be supported rather than hand-bagged.

With the permission of the House I intend to share my time with Deputy Síle de Valera.

Is the House agreeable? Agreed.

The cyclical nature of the aviation industry tends to mirror the ups and downs of our general economy.

In front of the terminal building at Dublin Airport there is a memorial to the late Seán Lemass, whereby Dublin Airport is recognised as one of the greatest legacies Mr. Lemass left to the nation. Indeed, through Seán Lemass going back to the times of de Valera and the foundation of our party and our State, it has been the policy of Fianna Fáil to give ardent and sustained support to our State industry and, since its establishment, our aviation industry, whether in good times or in the most challenging of times. We are now looking at the sad spectacle of a Fianna Fáil Minister who is apparently prepared to abandon policy stretching back 60 years by failing to even contemplate supportive action for our national airline, the stated primary mission of which is to serve Ireland as a profitable, customer-focused quality airline.

I come from a tradition within Fianna Fáil established by de Valera and developed by Seán Lemass in which both public and private sectors are recognised as having important parts to play in promoting economic development and in providing employment. Probably the single greatest example of that philosophy within the public sector has been Aer Lingus. I consider it cavalier of the Government to dismiss casually, as they appear to do, the request for an investment of additional equity without giving due consideration to the arguments and in advance of a fully documented development plan by Aer Lingus. That is a rejection of all our traditions.

I found it incredible that a Fianna Fáil Minister would — as was done in this House last night — refer to Deputy Jim Mitchell of Fine Gael as a great Minister for Transport and use his decisions as a justification for actions taken. It was Deputy Mitchell who in his period as Minister for Transport closed that other great national flag carrier, Irish Shipping, and left this nation without a deep sea fleet. That cannot be allowed happen to Aer Lingus. It was also Deputy Mitchell and the Fine Gael-Labour Government in the mid-eighties who consistently refused to sanction fleet replacement by Aer Lingus, refused to sanction a new runway for Dublin Airport and refused to commence work on a new runway in Cork. In my view, Deputy Mitchell does not fit the description given him last night of a very good and courageous Minister for Transport.

In the past week we have witnessed a concerted news media campaign to denigrate our national airline at board, management and staff levels. Suggestions of lack of commitment and lack of decision-making have polluted the air. Let me set the record straight: Aer Lingus results show the following group profits: 1983-84, £5.6 million; 1984-85, £8.2 million; 1985-86, £22.9 million; 1986-87; £24.3 million; 1987-88, £33.4 million; 1988-89, £52.7 million; 1989-90, £28 million; and in 1990-91, £8.3 million. In 1991-92 there was a loss of £11.8 million. In those years combined there was a net profit of £171.6 million — that is after interest, tax and extraordinary items. However, that is not to suggest that everything on the air transport side of the business is as we would all like it to be. But air transport is only one element of what is a proud and strong group that cover many enterprises. As well as the passenger and cargo services in which division are the three airline companies of Aer Lingus — UK — Europe services, Aer Línte US services and Aer Lingus Commuter there is also Aer Turas on the cargo side and holdings in Futura and Pegasus, both European charter services and a reservation system. The group also include TEAM, Aer Lingus, Airmotive, Irish Helicopters, DEVTEC, Copthorne Hotels, PARC Ltd — which is involved in personnel and management services — Cara Data Processing and Computer Services, among others. Aer Lingus have focused on enhancing their customer services in all areas of customer contact. They have achieved punctuality standards outstripping their competitors in the closely monitored and highly congested markets in which they operate. I would suggest that Aer Lingus are a company worth supporting, employing as they do 7,600 people.

Aer Lingus, along with other airlines throughout the world, have been facing difficult times in the airline side of the group business, particularly since the Gulf War. They have had two years of exceptionally difficult trading conditions in their principal markets. The board, management and staff have recognised that it is important to Aer Lingus and to the country as a whole that the potential of the group as a creator of wealth and a provider of jobs be fully exploited. They recognise that their overriding concern must be to generate profits from air transport if the core business is to serve the nation adequately.

It is not unique for the company to receive support during one of its cyclical difficult phases in the airline business. The Government of which I was a member in 1982 decided — and that policy was honoured by our successors — that at that difficult time, when the company were going through a loss phase, on the Atlantic services in particular, they merited support. Consequently, the company got an equity injection of £30 million and £12 million by way of Atlantic cost alleviation was provided for the MO. The company used that investment efficiently and they used it well, as is demonstrated by the results.

Accusations have been made that, faced with the present problems, Air Lingus board, management and staff have not responded and are only now trying to come to grips with the position. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, last year alone £11 million of payroll savings were agreed with the workers. The workforce have responded with wage moderation, new salary scales with lower starting points, the foregoing of due incremental rises and other changtes in work practices. On that question of costs, the Boston Consulting Group report on Aer Lingus in relation to staff costs on the general and administrative side stated that they were comparable to other carriers due to a combination of low average labour costs and slightly above average number of employees. Similarly, cabin crew costs are relatively low. Cockpit crew utilisation was found to be comparable to the best practised in the industry. The management have attempted to negotiate alliances with nearly all the major airlines in Europe. They have also attempted to take advantage of the hard-won fifth freedom rights, only to face ruthless competition from the major players in the industry, who are also having to struggle with the present world economic difficulties.

In relation to Shannon, the Minister in her statement was — to put it at its most charitable — being slightly disingenuous when she suggested that Aer Lingus had changed their position on this question. The reality is that the airline recognises that in the short term with a change in that policy they would face competition from new carriers on the Dublin route. However, in the long term unless they can turn around the financial results of the Atlantic, their fleet of 747s must be retired in the near future and no commitment for the Atlantic fleet replacement can be entered into.

I realise that to talk of a change in the Shannon stop-over is to refer to a hot political potato. I recognise that friends on all sides of the House hold strong local views on this matter but the national interest must prevail over spurious arguments for retention of the present position. To think that we can stand still is to offer the workers and the people of the Shannon region not security for the future but a mirage. What did Aer Lingus offer for a change in the rigid policy on Shannon? They said that only New York and Los Angeles could sustain direct services to Dublin. In the event of change there would have been a daily year round service to both Dublin and Shannon with the latter service turning around at Shannon. All Boston and Chicago services would have been routed through Shannon and by 1995-96 half of the New York peak services — nine out of 18 — would have turned around at Shannon. By replacing the Boeing 747s with Boeing 767s increased services could be provided to Boston and to Chicago.

The national reality is that 64 per cent of passengers from the US flew direct to Ireland in 1986; by 1990 this had reduced to 50 per cent with the other 50 per cent travelling here via the UK. Yesterday's announcement by the Government in my view cannot be long sustained against the reality that exists in the real world in which we live and must trade.

To return to the question of equity, great play is being made of the possible refusal of the EC Commission to an injection by the shareholder in its own company. Precedent, of course, shows that this is a nonsense. EC documents available to me stated that both Air France and Sabena have received, with EC approval, equity from their own Governments.

Time prevents me from elaborating on the need for a clearly defined air transport policy. It is not sufficient to refer to Ryanair and Aer Lingus operating Dublin/London at suicidal fare rates and call it a policy. We need to look at the global picture. We need to know about the future semi-State status for Aer Rianta. We need to know where air transport fits into a tourism policy. Generally, we need to see where we are going in the future. This entails more than thinly veiled attacks on the board and management of Aer Lingus.

I would also wish tonight to have had sufficient time to elaborate on the need for EC support for funding for aircraft. We are the EC's only island nation State and if aid for the peripheral regions means anything, surely aid for the purchase of aircraft for Ireland is a classical example.

I want to reiterate that if we are serious as a nation in promoting a modern economy, based on exports of goods and services, it is essential that we maintain our own State owned national airlines. If it was true in the time of de Valera and Sean Lemass how much more so is it today when two out of every three jobs in the manufacturing sector depend on exports. In my view the Irish people will be harsh in their judgment of any Government which weakens our national airline and which refuses to come to their aid in times of difficulty. I want to clearly state that that aid does not include a partial sale of Aer Lingus. We have seen, not too far from our shores, countries where bargain basement sales of most of their national assets have now led to the side effects of hundreds of thousands of their people marching on their streets.

The failed ideology of privatisation which is apparently the Fine Gael way forward should be rejected by the Minister. I suggest that rather than using her role model as Deputy Jim Mitchell, as a courageous Minister for Transport, she should revert to the real champion of Aer Lingus in good times and bad who recognised the benefits of a mixed economy with a strong public sector and a strong Aer Lingus — I refer to Sean Lemass. The Fianna Fáil record and tradition calls for nothing less. Fine Gael may wish to support the privatisation way forward but it is not the Fianna Fáil way. I appeal to the Minister to think again and reject this road to privatisation.

There is never a good time in the national finances for requests for funding for projects but equally there comes a time when Governments must respond to legitimate requests for capital from what has been historically one of our nation's greatest successes. If it was a multinational, I suggest to this House, is it not true to say that the IDA would be directed by the Government to shower it with aid. In this case it is our own. As a nation we are proud of it and woe betied anybody who casually damages it.

I support the Minister's amendment to the motion before the House. I rise in this debate to congratulate and thank the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, for her very positive and uncompromising decision on the retention of the stop-over in Shannon Airport. This decision has been greeted with great relief and celebration by the people of the mid-west as any other decision would have been detrimental to the social and economic life of the whole region.

The people of the mid-west, and the area's public representatives, have been fighting this issue for more than three years. Now that this unambiguous and unequivocal statement has been made it has safeguarded the jobs in the airport and surrounding areas that would otherwise have been seriously under threat.

The decision also means that business and tourist interests are now in a position to plan knowing what the future holds. I am aware that the main reason for the Minister's decision was based on the maintenance of jobs and of the potential of further job creation. The Minister in her press release of 27 October 1992 said:

Fundamentally this decision is about jobs, jobs in Shannon and along the western seaboard. It ensures that these jobs are preserved and that new jobs can be created but it does not endanger a single job anywhere else.

The Minister also went on to say:

This Government cannot write finis to the development of the rest of the country in order to provide a hypothetical advantage to business on the east coast, no matter how publicly popular that would be in the short term with these interests.

I must put on record that we in the mid-west were most disappointed that Aer Lingus was seen to suggest that the Shannon stop-over was responsible for some of the economic difficulties it is experiencing at present. We always felt that that was a red herring in the general debate. Aer Lingus sought the rights to operate a Los Angeles service in the late eighties. It got them with effect from 6 September 1990. Aer Lingus sought this route on the basis that the stop-over would stay, yet subsequently refused to operate the Los Angeles route unless there was a change in the Shannon stop policy.

I am happy, however, to note from the Minister's statement last night that the most recent proposals made by Aer Lingus management to the board acknowledge that the interests of the airline are currently best served by retaining the stop-over. It has been consistent Government policy that Shannon is Ireland's sole transatlantic gateway. This policy has been an important plank of air transport policy since the foundation of an airline industry in Ireland. In a time of such uncertainty in worldwide aviation, as at present, now is not the time to contemplate change.

I am pleased to note that the retention of the Shannon stop policy has also been endorsed by all sides of this House. Indeed, I would go further and say it has the backing of the vast majority of Members. It is also the decision which the ICTU and the Bishops forum on the development of the west recommended. The Minister, by her decision, has put the national interest first. Let us be quite clear that this decision is in the national interest. We have independent studies to prove that, including a study from the former Leader of Fine Gael.

The decision on the Shannon stop is accompanied by a number of other initiatives, including in particular proposals for new transport development plans for the west and mid-west region to build up transport infrastructure in the regions. This commitment is to allow the west and mid-west an opportunity to achieve its full development potential by giving an adequate transport infrastructure. Therefore, I fail to see how the accusation can be levelled at the Minister that her decision was taken on narrow political grounds. Her decision yesterday is an affirmation of an integrated approach to transport policy which takes account of all major economic, social and regional development considerations. This type of approach to policy is one which people not only on the west coast but, I would argue, all over Ireland want to see.

As regards the Minister's reference to a special traffic development task force for Shannon Airport with a budget of £1 million over two years, I would appreciate if the Minister would clarify this concept.

Aer Lingus have problems, as we all acknowledge. The greatest challenge ahead for Aer Lingus is replacing their transatlantic fleet in the coming years. Aer Lingus will require all the energy, imagination and resources of management in order to undertake the necessary investment.

I wish to acknowledge, as did Deputy Burke, the commitment of the workforce in Aer Lingus who have faced continuing demands not only for wage moderation but also for new salary scales with lower starting points, the forgoing of due incremental rises, changes in crewing and staff levels, increased flexibility and other changes in work practices.

I was rather surprised at Deputy Flanagan's contribution to the debate here last night. He seemed to raise many points which had already been articulated unambiguously by the Minister in her comprehensive statement on air transport policy and the troubles of Aer Lingus.

That is what the Deputy thinks.

I hazard a guess that perhaps this was a prepared statement and, in fairness, Deputy Flanagan may not have paid full attention to the views that were expressed last night by the Minister. The Minister acknowledged the contribution that Aer Lingus employees have made to the company and particularly expressed her appreciation of that contribution. As I have already said, the Aer Lingus employees in Shannon have been more than committed in this regard. I believe that the board have an obligation to their workers to come up with a credible remedial plan to halt the crisis in Aer Lingus, because the workers cannot be made to suffer in this situation and jobs must be protected. I believe that reasonable Government aid will be forthcoming on presentation by the board of a well thought out and costed proposal. Fianna Fáil will not let Aer Lingus down. After all, they are responsible for establishing our national airline and we wish to see it thrive.

I look forward to Aer Lingus availing of business opportunities in ancillary activities, in aircraft maintenance etc. and pursuing strategic alliances and joint ventures. Last night Fianna Fáil, through the Minister for Tourism, Transort and Communications, outlined yet again that this Government have a clear and integrated air transport policy. It emphasises job creation, competition in international markets, the strengthening of existing routes, the need to seek new opportunities and new markets and, finally, the need for substantial capital investment in infrastructure over the years and in the years immediately ahead which has been the policy of Fianna Fáil Ministers in the past. I know they will continue to give this commitment to Aer Lingus, which is something we would all wish to see and encourage.

The Deputy can send a copy of that policy to Deputy Burke.

Yesterday's decision was a decision in support of jobs, jobs at Shannon and, indeed, jobs in Aer Lingus. To say that the Minister is antiAer Lingus or its employees does not stand up to scrutiny. We in Shannon know too well how US carriers have pursued a pick-and-choose policy in the past regarding services to Ireland. Delta Airlines have been a loyal and committed carrier to Shannon for the past six years, opening up links to the south and southwest of the USA. Now is not the time, however, to begin opening up more competition on existing routes in the midst of an international recession and a weak dollar. This is putting tourism and existing jobs at great risk.

I would now refer to the commitment that the Government have given to substantial investment in our transport policy generally. I hope I can be forgiven for making particular reference to the substantial commitment that has been and will be given in the immediate future to Shannon Airport. We note that the Government propose to fund a new self-drive car park at Shannon and improvements to passenger terminals at Shannon Airport also.

I take this opportunity to highlight the fact that we in the mid-west and west generally would like to see Shannon Airport developed as a hub. I believe it would not take a great deal of extra money to do this. There are many advantages that Shannon Airport can point to in order to create this particular concept and put it immediately into action.

We are all concerned at the recent deterioration in the financial performance of Aer Lingus and were surprised and disappointed to learn that the airline is and has been losing around £40 million annually on their air transport operations. Let me emphasise that this is not due to the Shannon stop. It is primarily due to low fares on the Dublin-London route and interest payments for new aircraft which Aer Lingus assured the Government would pay for themselves. I am sure that when the Exchequer finances improve, the Government will sympathetically look at equity for Aer Lingus if it is commercially viable. The Minister suggested a number of ways in which she wished to see matters approached. I hope the board will listen to what she has said and that they can quickly find a path forward to keep Aer Lingus to the forefront of Irish aviation. They have the suport of the Minister to turn the company around. They have the support of my party, Fianna Fáil. Let us show them that they have the support of this House also, by accepting the Minister's amendment this evening.

This is perhaps one of the most important private motions that has come for debate in the lifetime of this Dáil. The Government, including the Progressive Democrats, have acted with a Pavlovian knee-jerk response, namely, by putting their party before the country. The Minister has not had the courage to approach the issue from a national point of view. Instead, she has assessed the political cost of offending voters in the immediate catchment area of Shannon Airport.

Is it the Deputy's intention to share time?

My apologies. I wish to share my time with Deputy Deenihan, Deputy Finucane and the Labour Party.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Minister is in dire fear of airport candidates being put up for election by the people of Shannon to the detriment of the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrat parties. It is extraordinary that a person of such high calibre as the Minister, whose firm wish and prayer is to be the next EC Commissioner for this country to Brussels, could make such an insensitive and unbelievable error of judgment.

Aer Lingus was established by the Government in 1936, 56 years ago. It employs approximately 7,600 people and received the paltry sum, in today's terms, of £73 million from its only shareholder, the Government, for investment purposes. This company is worth in excess of £600 million. During the years 1983-91 Aer Lingus employees paid a total of £224 million in PAYE and PRSI contributions and Irish airline superannuation schemes have £203 million of Government security bonds.

The value of Aer Lingus to Ireland extends beyond its direct employment capacity. It has more overseas offices than any other Irish agency and it makes a major contribution to our image abroad. At home, Aer Lingus supports jobs in hundreds of Irish companies through annual expenditure of more than £90 million on goods and services. Irish airports and air traffic control services earn more than £30 million per year from Aer Lingus. Yet Aer Lingus are in severe financial difficulties. One can justifiably ask why this is so.

The Minister, and her predecessors, including the former Minister, Deputy Seamus Brennan, must accept total and ultimate responsibility for the air transport division's poor performance. The buck stops on the Minister's desk; she is the boss. The Minister's nominees to the board of Aer Lingus must not have advised her or her predecessor of the gravity of the situation. On Wednesday, 1 January 1992 the lead headline in theEvening Press was “Fares go up as Aer Lingus loses £50 million”. This paper circulates to more than 200,000 homes and everybody in the country knew about those losses but the Minister did nothing about them. I predicted at the time that the airline's poor performance would inevitably have to be paid for by the taxpayer and through job losses, especially in Dublin and, in particular, on the north side of the city. When these losses were considered together with the problems of Aer Lingus Holdings, where between £15 million and £17 million is alleged to be missing, alarm bells must surely have been sounding for the Minister.

On one occasion last year the Ceann Comhairle ordered me out of the Dáil for trying to raise the issue of Aer Lingus Holdings Limited in Spain. Aer Lingus has a property interest in Tenerife through Aer Lingus Espana Limited, a property development and hotel operating company established in 1973. The name of the site is Puerto Santiago — the Minister is probably familiar with it — which has a total of 279 apartments, of which 55 remain unsold. Aer Lingus Espana Limited is responsible for 20 of these units. It is in partnership with a Mr. Kurt Konrad who is now in very severe financial difficulties in the Canaries. Stories abound about the Tenerife site, about apartments over-financed and under-written by Aer Lingus for private individuals. In short, when the books were investigated and the penny dropped, it appears that between £15 million and £17 million of taxpayers' money was missing, presumed lost and never to be found.

Senior management bear an onerous responsibility for this debacle, which is the subject of a criminal inquiry of which we are all awaiting the outcome. As a result of bad senior management decisions the Puerto Santiago site has not realised its full potential. In short, if this site had been properly developed at the time it would have realised £52 million for Aer Lingus Holdings Limited instead of losses.

Aer Lingus is in severe financial difficulties because of the reluctance of successive Governments to honour the shareholder's responsibility to invest adequately in the company. Aer Lingus has been forced to take out expensive loans from private institutions to finance the expensive capital costs associated with the aviation industry. These repayments are a millstone around the neck of an otherwise financially sound company. Until such time as it is addressed, this problem will effectively cripple the entire company.

Even the most zealous supporter among the "Fly Dublin Brigade" never suggested that all transatlantic flights should fly direct to Dublin. It was recognised that strict safeguards to maintain jobs and protect investment would have to be built into any programme. For example, as a short experiment why could 50 per cent of all flights not fly direct to Dublin, the capital of this country? How could such a proposal be regarded as menacing to the mid-west region?

The Minister has used the traditional method, the time honoured practice, and placed all the blame on the board of this semi-State company. She did this safe in the knowledge that no member of this board — apart from the political appointees, all of them are civil servants — would be able to answer the serious and grave charges she has levelled against them. She has taken the soft option, the cowardly way out, of lacerating the board of Aer Lingus.

The Minister has missed a glorious opportunity to put the country before her party. This would have required sacrificing simple electoral gains to secure long term national interests. The Minister, her party and the Progressive Democrats, who are in Government for the moment at least, have followed the course of self-interest, political survival at all costs. The people of Dublin and those along the eastern seaboard do not seem to figure in the Government's plans. How can they ignore the pleadings of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce or theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress Task Force on Tourism, who were set up by the Government, Board Fáilte and SIPTU? This defies logic.

Direct flights to Dublin fall into that rarest of categories, common sense. Our tourist industry has been responsibile for one in three of the new jobs created during the past five years. Internal tourism was a net contributor to the Exchequer to the tune of £4 million last year. This industry is second in importance only to our agricultural industry. Once again the people of Dublin, especially those living on the north side, have been sold down the Liffey into the Shannon by a political party who put the west of Ireland, Shannon Airport and the Fianna Fáil Party before the good of this country. Seats in Dáil Éireann are more important to the Minister and her charlatan cavalier Taoiseach than the pleadings of Bord Fáilte, theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress, the Task Force on Tourism, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the 7,500 employees of Aer Lingus and their immediate families of approximately 25,000 people.

I welcome the decision announced yesterday by the Minister that the Shannon stop-over will be retained.

There is a split in Fine Gael.

Any other decision would have inevitably led to the demise of Shannon Airport and the loss of thousands of jobs in the mid-west and west regions.

Industries in my constituency depend to a significant extent on Shannon Airport. I am glad we do not have to depend on Democratic Left or the Labour Party to provide jobs. Both Neodata Services Limited and Nyle Erin in Castleisland receive data for processing from America through Shannon on a daily basis. The processed information is relayed back to the USA via our state-of-the-art telecommunications system. The decision to retain the Shannon stop-over is also vital as regards future investment in the mid-west region. A change in the Shannon stop-over status would have diminished the future of the region in terms of attracting jobs from the US. Income from tourism in County Kerry amounts to £164 million. Our tourism industry is now larger than our agricultural industry. A substantial amount of this money comes from the revenue provided by North American visitors. In 1991, 80,000 US tourists visited County Kerry. This year there should be an increase in this figure of approximately 7 per cent. The majority of these visitors disembarked at Shannon. Country Kerry would suffer considerably if Shannon Airport was bypassed.

I also welcome the preparation of a plan for presentation to Brussels seeking major EC funding for rail, roads and ports in the mid-west region. This region needs major investment. From the point of view of industry and tourism, the road from Shannon via Limerick to Foynes, Tarbert and north Kerry must be included in this plan; otherwise the land bank in Tarbert-Ballylongford will remain undeveloped. Now that the uncertainty is over regarding the future status of Shannon as the trans-Atlantic gateway, we must develop Shannon as a hub between North America and Europe. The success of Aeroflot proves this point. Closer links between Shannon and the regional airports along the western seaboard should be fostered. It should be possible to establish close cooperation between the proposed new airport at Farranfore and Shannon.

Regarding the future of Aer Lingus, I, like all other Deputies, would urge the Government to help the company to survive. Aer Lingus have made a major contribution to the economy. No other single agency has provided such a service for industry and for tourism. I know there are constraints on the Minister but it is important that every effort be made to ensure the survival of Aer Lingus. If this means Government intervention, so be it.

I am delighted that the Minister has at long last made a public announcement in relation to Shannon's status and the continuation of its role in relation to trans-Atlantic flights. I could not help thinking during the past year of Shakespeare's famous line, "Procrastination is the thief of time". On this issue there was a lot of prevarication and vacillation which had a destabilising effect in the area. We are thankful that the announcement has been made. I wonder if it is the harbinger of an imminent general election. It is an indication of the fight which took place in the mid-west region and in the west in relation to the retention of Shannon's status. I publicly compliment Signal and the Shannon Status Committee on their tremendous work to ensure Shannon's survival. The culmination of their efforts was the march in Limerick of 30,000 people to show solidarity with Shannon and to ensure that Shannon was regarded as a viable entity of vital importance to the area.

Over the past year while uncertainty prevailed I have no doubt that decisions were deferred in relation to investment in the Shannon area, but I believe these investments will now proceed. Shannon's significance has not been lost internationally in the aviation field and much is happening in aviation circles in Shannon. The GPA Aerospace investment is progressing very satisfactorily. Regional development is recognised as being of great importance in relation to the principle of subsidiarity, the buzz word in EC circles.

In recent years the Shannon issue has been used as a smokescreen by Aer Lingus in relation to their financial problems. The full significance of those problems has been exposed recently. Many of the economic problems which assail Aer Lingus cannot be attributed to Shannon. We must consider the scale of those losses and the failure of many of the ancillary activities of Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus was admired by all of us when we were growing up. It was the company we looked up to. I hope the Government will consider closely the proposals put forward by Aer Lingus. The Government say their commitment is to create jobs, not to lose jobs. I hope they will bear this in mind when considering the case of Aer Lingus. While I recognise the importance of Shannon, it gives me no joy to see what has happened to Aer Lingus. None of us wants to see job losses in the company. If such losses must occur we hope they will be minimised. We want to see the survival of Aer Lingus. I trust therefore the Minister will look sympathetically at Aer Lingus in the future.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Rabbitte.

Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

The Labour Party welcome the Minister's announcement in relation to the Shannon stopover and the commitment of resources for the development of the western and midwestern regions. We support regional development but it should be remembered that there are regions other than those I have mentioned. The Minister stated that she is committed to regional development but if she is serious she must put in place a national aviation policy which will allow for tourism, industrial and commercial development. There are six regional airports. The Minister specifically referred to Waterford Regional Airport which is without any airline providing scheduled services, following the withdrawal of both Aer Lingus and Ryanair. The Minister must ensure that conditions obtain in the national aviation scene which will allow the regional airports to compete on a level playing field. The key is the operation of a fare structure on the Dublin-London route which will ensure that commercially viable fares will operate. The present crazy price war cannot be allowed to continue because it is undermining the viability of services of Irish origin, in the long term at least. The Minister must provide the aviation framework to hasten the return of the national carrier, Aer Lingus, to operating scheduled services out of Waterford and to allow for other carriers to provide scheduled services. It cannot be overstressed that infra-structural development of the regions will be greatly held back if air access is not rapidly expanded.

The Tourism Task Force, as well as recommending Government investment in Aer Lingus, draw attention to the fact that the amount of money spent on marketing Ireland has declined in real terms. The welding together of the tourism sector and Aer Lingus in the context of marketing Ireland to promote tourist facilities and attractions of a wide nature has been improved by the input of many sectors, not least the local authorities and the regional tourism organisations. The bottom line must be to increase dramatically passenger numbers on all Aer Lingus scheduled services. Aggressive promotion of an integrated tourism product is the obvious growth area.

Three elements are essential for the survival of Aer Lingus and to enable the company to overcome the current crisis. These are strategy, financial capability and a competitive cost base. All three elements must be addressed to secure the future of the airline in the face of deregulation of the European market and the increasing globalisation of air transport services. First, any strategy must begin from the premise that Ireland's national interests in terms of scheduled services to a maximum number of destinations can only be secured by ourselves and not left to the outcome of market forces. In practical terms this means that we will have to continue to attempt to manage aviation against the tide. This will see the elimination of many routes, the collapse of a number of airlines and a weakening of all peripheral locations. Truthfully, Aer Lingus are now caught between the rock of European deregulation and the hard place of financial starvation by this Government.

A national strategy requires immediate ministerial intervention to protect the viability of both Aer Lingus and Ryanair on the Dublin-London route. This means an end to the below cost seats and the elimination of the £20 million loss incurred by Aer Lingus. It is a bit rich for the Minister to demand that Aer Lingus simply increases its fare on this route while Ryanair would retain £58 fares to Stansted. In an economic boom Aer Lingus could attract a premium for the extras it would provide in both inflight and other concessions. However, the Minister is overlooking the reality that in a recession price is everything.

The second issue that needs to be addressed is the establishment of a proper payment to Aer Lingus for the provision of services ex Shannon which are unprofitable. Having put a national strategy in place, equity capital must be provided to the company to ensure a debt ratio of 75 per cent as against the current level in excess of 130 per cent.

Finally, let me stress that privatisation or golden shares are not the route to maintaining a vigorous, viable national airline with a full range of services.

I must advise Deputy Rabbitte that he will, of necessity, have a very short flight. He has five minutes.

As you know, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, it takes me some time to take off.

I will have to ground you very promptly.

I thank Deputy O'Shea for sharing his time with me.

It is a coincidence that today the all-party Oireachtas Committee on jobs met the chief executive and other senior management of Aer Lingus to talk about the capacity of the public enterprises to create new jobs. Aer Lingus being the most prestigious and the fourth largest employer in the country, all Deputies were anxious to see how Aer Lingus could contribute to the job creation task that is of such a scale and arguably the biggest problem facing this society.

The equity crisis that now faces Aer Lingus absolutely rules out any question of Aer Lingus making any contribution to the job creation challenge. Very dynamic subsidiary enterprises, many of them at the leading edge of technology, have been created by Aer Lingus in recent years — for example Airmotive, Pratt and Whitney, both in my own constituency, Devtec and a couple more. But the equity crisis is now so serious that it does not just pose a threat to the core business of Aer Lingus but to the subsidiaries also. So bad is the financial situation in Aer Lingus that the very future of the company is at risk.

Yet what do we get from the Minister? We get her flouncing around like a poor imitation of Mrs. Thatcher, handbagging the management and claiming that they are responsible for this mess, and making a decision three years too late on the Shannon stopover. At this stage the Shannon stopover is only a smokescreen. I understand the Deputies who come from that area who have to get up and say what they have to say, but the argument is finished. Three years ago the Minister's predecessor should have made that decision. The Minister has been sitting on it until now, and now she has managed to create an effective smokescreen in the House about Shannon rather than dealing with what she is going to do about the crisis in Aer Lingus. Everybody knows there is no successful airline in the world at the moment that does not have an element of long haul business, and we can never develop a long haul element to Aer Lingus until such time as Dublin is a hub. Really the Shannon stopover is a non argument.

The question is what does the Minister mean by saying that there is no free equity? What does "free equity" mean? Is she talking about grants or hand-outs? Any shareholder is entitled to beef up the equity in their own enterprise to make sure that it is viable and has a future. That is not free equity; that is a prudent investment decision in a country that spends £500 million every year on industrial policy, sometimes for a very poor return. Everybody admits that we have got very poor value for money spent on industrial policy, but every year some £500 million at a minimum is spent. Yet the Minister says there can be no question of putting equity into a company that has a proven track record, that is the fourth largest employer in this country, that created some 1,400 jobs in the last three years alone — more jobs indeed than the leading private companies put together. That is the depth of the crisis we are in. The Minister has made this popular decision for the mid-west which is going to carry her past the general election but which does nothing for Aer Lingus, which in the meantime is faced with a crisis that threatens the very future of the airline.

I argue that it is manifest and transparent nonsense for the Minister and the Taoiseach to argue at this eleventh hour that we are looking for a partner. What kind of partner would take the Aer Lingus that have been allowed to accumulate such problems over the last three to five years? The Minister suddenly discovers these problems then handbags the management left right and centre and talks populist nonsense that if there are to be redundancies they will start at the top. That is no solution. That does not constitute an aviation policy.

The Minister kept reiterating last night, like a mantra, "I have a policy, I have a policy". There is no policy. There is not aviation policy. There is no policy for the rescue of Aer Lingus. Either one puts in equity, one gets a partner or one gives it away, like Dan-Air, for £1 in a takeover. Presumably we are not going to give it away. Delta may well be a takeover bidder in terms of getting our slots at Heathrow, but presumably we are not going down that road. A partner is not a practicable option; that is acknowledged by everybody in the business. Therefore we are left with the equity option. If Aer Lingus is to be kept alive as a major instrument of economic welfare in a country that put tourists at such a high premium, then it needs equity and its needs it now. I simply do not understand this expression "free equity" and the statement that the Commission would not permit it anyway.

What does the Minister mean when she says that the Commission would not permit it anyway? Last week because of the sterling crisis, we voted £50 million for the market development fund to bail out private companies trading into Britain. That is going to the Commission for adjudication afterwards. There seems to be one rule for the private sector when it comes to bailing them out, as in the cases of ICI and PMPA, and a different rule for the public companies. Let us make the decision now and worry about the Commission afterwards.

In conclusion, let me say that I do not know what the Minister means by "free quity". If the shareholder decides to put equity into Aer Lingus, the issue of it being impermissible by the Commission is another smokescreen. Sadly, it looks as if the jobs of the 7,600 people employed in Aer Lingus are at risk in an economy that has devastating unemployment levels already. Yet this Government have suddenly adopted some sort of dogma that under no circumstances, no matter what the track record of the company, will they put any more money into it. It is a shame. I do not think that it constitutes an aviation policy. We should now stop flouncing about, handbagging managers and making populist statements and address the crisis in one of our largest companies.

Deputy Kemmy rose.

I am about to call the Minister of State, Deputy Kenneally. I would like to remind the people in the Gallery that they are here as guests of the House and are not entitled to react in any way to contributions made here.

I do not have much time this evening but there are some issues I want to cover so I will be brief in my comments.

Deputy Spring says he believes it is essential that commercial decisions be made on the basis of the soundest possible commercial criteria. I must take it that he accepts, therefore, that there should be an adequate rate of return on such investment. This is the line the Government have followed.

During the debate last night, the Minister quoted figures in relation to the present value of the Exchequer investment in Aer Lingus if it had been invested on a risk free basis. My Department have asked Stokes Kennedy Crowley Corporate Finance Limited to carry out a technical exercise to confirm the Department's view of what these investments would have generated if they had been invested on a risk free basis. This is the independent report referred to by the Minister during her contribution to the debate last evening.

I would also point out to Deputy Spring that similar comments were made by consultants in 1986 in relation to the Exchequer investment in Aer Lingus during the period when his party were in Government.

The Minister dealt eloquently yesterday with the baseless and contemptible allegations that the Government have no air transport policy. She spelt out the measures to strengthen the Irish presence on our air routes; the development of our national and regional airports; the provision of the latest high technology radar and communications equipment which have revolutionised Irish air traffic control services; and, finally, the development of Ireland as a "centre of excellence in aviation" with the focus on Shannon.

Let me deal with a further baseless allegation made by Deputy Flanagan who claimed that Ireland has no Government policy on the matter of EC funding for transport. The Deputy is either being disingenuous or else this demonstrates an astounding lack of knowledge on his part.

I was referring to air transport.

The fact is that a major EC funded programme of investment in transport infrastructure in Ireland is being carried out under the operational programme on peripherality and we have lodged an application with the EC Commission for funding of mobile assets. A key objective of the investment under the operational programme is to reduce the transport cost disadvantages which Ireland's unique peripherality and island nation status imposes on Irish exporters.

I believe the position is clear. There are financial difficulties facing Aer Lingus which demand urgent and decisive remedial measures in order to prevent these difficulties developing into a full scale crisis. It is without question the responsibility of the board of Aer Lingus to come up with proposals for a commercially viable airline and I urge them to do so quickly.

Deputy Burke was selective in referring to group profits only over a nine year period. The fact of the matter is that during the past two years on the aviation side Aer Lingus have lost over £80 million and it is predicted that they will lose £40 million in the current year. While Aer Lingus have undoubtedly a strong and proud record it is the future that I am concerned about. All sectors in the group are now consuming capital that could be used for expansion while the air transport sector are facing unacceptable losses.

I should say that Deputy Burke made an outrageous attack on the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications this evening——

Surprise, surprise.

——and I will leave it to the Members of this House to decide for themselves the reason Deputy Burke of all Deputies on this side of the House, should at this time launch a personal attack on the Minister in a Fianna Fáil led Government.

He was only shadow boxing.

Finally, I would like to place on the record of the House my appreciation, in addition to that of the Minister, of the contribution of the employees of Aer Lingus over the years in enabling the airline to fulfil their role in the development of Ireland's trade and tourism.

I support Deputy Burke.

I am pleased that the House, in supporting the Government's air transport policy, is also being asked to support the Government's view that the airline should maintain employment at the maximum possible level consistent with maintaining a viable commercial operation.

Put a figure on it.

The Aer Lingus workforce have a worldwide reputation for friendliness, courtesy and helpfulness to passengers. They have also shown exemplary dedication to air safety and the general wellbeing of passengers. They have also in the past shown themselves to be resourceful in seeking out new opportunities; resilient and energetic in overcoming their problems and skilful in adapting to new technology. Essentially, the Aer Lingus management should build on that co-operative spirit in overcoming their current difficulties. The workforce have always shown themselves to be up to this challenge. I commend the amendment to the House.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Ryan.

I am sure the Deputy can anticipate the agreement of the House. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am pleased that the Labour Party have availed of Private Members' time to debate this very important matter given that this is the greatest crisis ever to hit Aer Lingus in their 50 year history. It is important that this House should discuss issues of the day rather than spend time discussing frivolous and vexatious matters.

It is essential, as an island country, that we should have our own distinctive air transport policy. We need to identify our air transport needs and the role of Aer Lingus while it is our duty to attempt to meet those needs and to serve our people to the best of our ability. That is the central issue in this debate.

Unfortunately, Governments, like people, have short memories and tend to forget easily the contribution that has been made by the workforce of Aer Lingus during the past 55 years. The company have been the motor engine in making progress in this State not only in industry but also in the tourism sector. Indeed, Aer Lingus have been a visible symbol of this country both in Europe and North America. Everywhere one goes in those lands Aer Lingus are a household name.

They have a good track record, have given good service and have accounted for their stewardship. They are much more than an airline; they are a large and complex organisation embracing many strands. They go far beyond the conventional definition of what an airline means. They are both national and international and are our lifeline to the large world out there.

They are operating in a tough, highly volatile and rapidly changing business. Regulations are being dismantled daily and ownership is concentrated in fewer companies. Profit margins have been slashed and the global recession has led to fare wars in many countries, including our own, with the result that airlines, especially small companies, have been hit very hard.

Aer Lingus have come under increasing pressure in recent times. Their difficulties are obvious: they are operating in a small domestic market with a small population and are not big enough to challenge major airlines on the world market. They are also losing out badly on the Dublin-London route.

The airfare war with Ryanair is both stupid and senseless; there is no need to engage in that battle. The Government should have exerted their authority and influence long ago to put a stop to it. They are two small Irish airlines and it is a form of madness that they are fighting each other.

It is against this background that Aer Lingus need all the Government protection, help and support they can get. Consensus and co-operation should be the key words, not confrontation. Who needs confrontation at present when the country is struggling for survival?

I found the Minister's statement last night disappointing and I am a fair minded person. It is well written but it was remarkable for what was left out rather than for what it contained. The Minister spoke around the problems rather than dealing with them head on. She made no positive proposals or constructive suggestions and made no effort to chart a new way forward or to present a new salvage package for the company.

The Minister's meeting with the board last week achieved nothing other than some publicity for herself but we do not need that kind of publicity at present. The Minister is the representative of the shareholders, nothing more, nothing less. She is not some kind of neutral observer standing on the sidelines.

I believe the Minister was wrong-header since she is the shareholder's representative, nothing more and nothing less. She is not some kind of neutral observer standing on the sidelines; she is a shareholder in this company. She was wrong to go to the board meeting last week with all guns blazing, macho style, adopting a brutal, heckling approach which solves nothing and gets one nowhere. It reminded me of an old fashioned school teacher going in to lecture an unruly, delinquent class. One cannot conduct industrial relations in that manner. The management of Aer Lingus are not above criticism. Had I time I would be the first to criticise them in many ways. However, the Minister's remarks last evening and her attack on the board of Aer Lingus last week were nothing more than a smokescreen.

I would remind the House of an old Irish expression, uisce féin d'tealamh. Certainly there is much water under the ground in this case. The Minister has not fully revealed her hand here. She is adopting a cloak and dagger approach to the future of this company. She has a strategy up her voluminous sleeve and it is time she came clean on it. I must remind the Minister again that she cannot pose as a neutral observer, she is not one. The company belongs to the Irish people and the Minister is the sole shareholder. The Minister must not be allowed evade her responsibilities in this area. My party have no intention of letting the Minister off the hook; we will not allow her funk or duck this one.

Aer Lingus is in deep crisis, its problems being deep-seated but are not intractable or insoluble. They can be solved with good will, intelligence and co-operation all round. The Minister spoke of the national interest. What does that mean? It has all to do with people at work and our economy as far as we are concerned.

I might remind the House also that the company's workforce have made many sacrifices over the years which I have not time to detail this evening.

It would be churlish of me to finish my contribution without welcoming the Minister's initiativevis-à-vis Shannon Airport. Indeed some Members have spoken with false tongues, such as former Minister, Deputy Burke, who can engage in the luxury of voting with the Government while, on the other hand, castigating the Minister. Such people may fool those listening in the Public Gallery but not other Members. Such people cannot speak with a false tongue and support the party policy. They must obey the party whip, be a party person or get out of that party or, alternatively, vote against the Government in favour of our motion. But they cannot play on both sides. The same could be said of some Members of the Fine Gael Party who spoke also. I know they have a policy on this issue which I admire but they should make that policy known. They should not come in, one speak from one side of the mouth and another from the other side. As far as I am concerned that is not politics.

There are many reports available from both sides on the Shannon issue. Members should read those reports and, if they like, take on the Minister but they should not engage in the luxury of saying one thing and doing another.

What about Deputy Ryan?

Deputy Ryan took the party stand and will speak for himself in a few moments. He does not need any help from Deputy Vincent Brady. Deputy Brady has sufficient on his plate fighting his own battles. Indeed, I would say he fought them very badly in recent times. Deputy Brady should not come in here and snipe at me. He should have said his piece where it counted and not gone behind closed doors to do so. He should have fought his battle and opted out. There is no point in running away from battles; one must fight one's battles——

Vincent is proud to go with Charlie.

Deputy Brady is now adopting a dog-in-the-manger attitude which will not cut much ice with me; I have no time for that. I fought my battles, lost some, but always fought them honourably. If I disagreed with the Labour Party I would leave the party and vote against them in the House. I would not be a member of a party and pretend I believed in something I did not.

The Deputy is back with the party again.

Yes, I am proud to be back with this party. Our party will not turn their back on Aer Lingus and its workforce. We will stand by them, as we have done in the past, because we believe the company is viable and can be saved with some ingenuity, good will and intelligence. But, above all, it is important that Government support be available, particularly financial support. We will not baulk at that one either. As Deputy Rabbitte mentioned, £50 million was made available in this House last week for which I voted — because I am not a hypocrite on that issue — to aid exporters. Every week we appear to vote money for agricultural sectoral interests, but we must remember that the workforce of Aer Lingus all form part of our society. We intend to ensure that their rights are supported here.

I had not much time to say what I would have liked on the Shannon issue. I would like to have dealt with some of the points raised. But beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach. As far as the Labour Party are concerned there is one way forward only for Aer Lingus, through co-operation, consensus and Government support; nothing more and nothing less.

I am indeed pleased to bring this debate on Aer Lingus and air transport to a conclusion. Indeed, were it not for the Labour Party, and the commitment of the Parliamentary Labour Party, in allowing this motion to be tabled this evening to judge by the performance of the Government over the years we would wait many years before the urgency of present circumstances would be realised. I predict today will go down in history as the day this Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Government failed Aer Lingus. I shall not refer to the Progressive Democrats because I know their policy in relation to Aer Lingus and its privatisation. Instead I will refer to Fianna Fáil.

This successful semi-State company, to the forefront over the past 56 years in facilitating and participating in the economic growth and development of this country at local, national and international levels, sought the Minister's help and that of the Government in the form of State equity to bring their finances round. The Minister failed them in their time of need. It is not that Aer Lingus have been approaching successive Governments with a begging bowl over the years; they never did so. On the contrary, they have been highly successful in a most competitive field. Up to two years ago they achieved substantial profits, providing dividends for the State coffers.

The net effect of the vote tonight, notwithstanding the Minister's remarkable comments when she met the board last week, will be retrenchment, cutbacks in services and, ultimately, the privatisation of the company and its subsidiaries. We all know that such remedial action has led in other countries to massive redundancies and unemployment. This will have a devastating effect on thousands of families nationwide, particularly those in the wider north Dublin area about which I am speaking. That area witnessed a net loss of some 20,000 jobs in the industrial field since 1973. The Fianna Fáil Party of the past — which established Aer Lingus in 1936 — would not have adopted this approach. Indeed, I am sure many of their members and workers in the aviation industry are shocked at their change of policy this evening.

I should like to thank Members for their contributions in the course of this important, timely debate. I appeal to the Government to withdraw their amendment and support our motion. My constituency colleague gave an enthusiastic commitment to Aer Lingus which I share fully. I call on him to support the motion which seeks to provide the necessary equity to ensure that Aer Lingus can compete with other airlines in Europe and world wide, thereby ensuring the future of the company and its staff. I ask the House to support our motion.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 68; Níl, 55.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, Pat.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sheehan, Patrick J.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Ferris and O'Shea.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl 54.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilson, John.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Browne, John. (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sheehan, Patrick J.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, Pat.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Ferris and O'Shea.
Question declared carried.