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Government urged to protect Coillte amid more talk of State asset sell-off

The government’s share in Aer Lingus, the forestry agency Coillte, Dublin Port, and Bord Gáis are all under consideration for being sold off.

The government is thought to be considering selling off a stake in the forestry agency Coillte
The government is thought to be considering selling off a stake in the forestry agency Coillte
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been called upon to honour a pre-election pledge to retain assets under the responsibility of the State forestry agency Coillte amid more speculation about the sell-off of State assets.

The State’s shares in Aer Lingus, ESB, Eirgrid, Coillte, Bord Gais and Bord na Mona are all being considered in light of the need to raise revenue under the bailout agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The Irish Times reports today that the sell-off of stakes in Aer Lingus, Coillte, Dublin Port, and Bord Gáis are being considered under a list of assets drawn up by an inter-departmental group.

This list forms the basis of current discussions with the Troika – EU, IMF, ECB – officials who are in Dublin assessing the implementation of Ireland’s rescue package.

The Troika has long pushed for a sell-off of €5 billion worth of State assets while the programme for government stated a goal to raise  €2 billion through a sell-off “when market conditions are right”. It has already agreed to sell-off a minority stake in ESB.

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris today called on the government to honour a pre-election pledge that Coillte and its land would not be sold off.

“Spokespersons for both the current government parties, including the current Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, joined me in rejecting any such sell off,” Ferris said.

“I am therefore calling on them to honour their election pledge that Coillte, nor any of its land and forestry assets, would not be sold off. Such a sale to private interests would represent a shameful auction of a valuable and under-utilised natural resource.

“It would also of course fly in the face of the government’s own stated objective of retaining Coillte lands as part of a new public energy company.”

Aer Lingus

The sale of the government’s stake in Aer Lingus has been long mooted but the government has sought to play down a fire sale of any asset in order to get the best price for it.

The government has previously said it would not sell its 25 per cent stake in the airline for less than €1 per share – valuing it at over €130 million in total.

Department of Transport officials are reported to have have met with Middle Eastern airline Etihad in October while Zawya news agency reported recently that Transport Minister Leo Varadkar was to meet with Etihad’s chief executive.

The Irish Times report also states that the government is looking to preserve the airline’s slots at Heathrow airport in London in the event of any sale.

The government and the Troika are also reported to differ on the use of the money raised from a State asset sell-off with the government saying publicly it wanted to use the revenue for job creation policies.

However confidential documents seen by TheJournal.ie appear to show the government agreeing with the Troika that the money should be used for the servicing of debt.

Poll: Should the State sell its stake in Aer Lingus?

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