I refer Deputy Yates to my replies to a number of parliamentary questions taken on 30 September 1998 and 10 November 1998.
The position as outlined to the House on those occasions remains essentially unchanged. As I stated, the Government agreed in principle in September that Aer Lingus should seek a partner, that the partnership could be equity based and that the process could move to the next stage which would include discussions with other airlines. As I indicated in September, this stage could take up to six months.
While I have regular contact with the Chairman of Aer Lingus, there are no specific developments to report at this time. Aer Lingus is currently undertaking discussions with a number of prospective partners of which, I understand, Lufthansa is one.
Neither my officials not I are involved in these discussion, the purpose of which is to generate proposals for my consideration and that of the Government in due course. Shareholder involvement will, of course, be a major feature of the next phase of this process, perhaps from March or April next year, and depending on the options which the current phase generates.