Clare Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley has called on the government to take a strategic shareholding in Aer Lingus to ensure and protect vital connectivity to the various regions of Ireland.
As part of his call, the Senator also urged that any future request for funding be made available in return for a shareholding in the company and that the current loans provided by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) be converted into shares.
Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Dooley commented, “Airlines have begun to plan for the recovery following the pandemic. They’re looking at closing bases, they’re looking at staff layoffs and they’re looking at routes that won’t reopen – they have done so already in Shannon.
“The buzz word at the moment is consolidation and what consolidation means is routing many of the flights through just one base, and that will likely be Dublin much to the loss of Shannon, the Mid-West and West of Ireland and more than likely Cork as well.
“While consolidation might help to get airlines back to being viable and profitable it will have a devastating impact on connectivity.”
The Senator outlined that if geographic locations and regions of the country are to have some chance at recovering from the pandemic then drastic action will have to be taken to protect vital strategic connectivity into the regions, in particular the mid-west and Shannon.
Senator Dooley continued, “Government needs to make a decision and provide strategic investment to Aer Lingus, it has already invested by way of loan from ISIF of €150m and perhaps up to another €150m will be provided by way of state loans.
“It’s my view that those loans should be converted into shares and the state should take a seat or a number of seats on the board of Aer Lingus to ensure and protect strategic connectivity to the various regions of Ireland. It will help ensure that the country as a whole is prepared and ready to go the hard yards in helping businesses and society recover from this awful crisis we’ve come through.”