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The Government is willing to consider offers for Aer Lingus

Paschal Donohoe says Ireland’s connectivity is just as important as the price though.

Updated 3.09 pm

TRANSPORT MINISTER PASCHAL Donohoe says the Government would “give serious consideration” to any offer for Aer Lingus based on a number of factors.

The Government holds a 25% stake in the airline, second only to Ryanair who own 29% of the national carrier. A decision would be made by shareholders if the board of Aer Lingus recommended acceptance of an offer.

The International Airlines Group (IAG) has already tabled two offers for Aer Lingus and are reported to be making a third offer tomorrow that would value the airline at up to €1.3 billion.

IAG was formed by the merger of British Airways and Spain’s Iberia and is led by former Aer Lingus CEO Willie Walsh.

Walsh was boss of Aer Lingus between 2001 and 2005 before he took the reins at British Airways.

Airline analysts say that much of Aer Lingus’s value is in its slots at Heathrow Airport. Concerns have been raised that the sale of Aer Lingus would see these slots diverted from Ireland-Heathrow routes to elsewhere.

“All of our connectivity is extremely important and the one most talked about are the Heathrow slots ,” Donohoe told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics this afternoon.

If a bid was to come in for Aer Lingus, it’s not just the value to the taxpayer of our stake that would be considered. But also the fundamental need of trade and people to flow freely, that would be a vital consideration.  As well as the impact to the Aer Lingus brand that people work so hard to make.

The minister said that a report has already been commissioned to look at any potential offer with Donohoe adding that “the Government will take huge care in evaluating any proposal that comes in”.

Speaking on the same programme, Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley said he was opposed to any sale.

“The once-off gain of €330-350 million, whatever it may be. It’s a bit like getting your redundancy, you only get it once and you lose your strategic say.”

Independent TD Mattie McGrath is also opposed the sale but said that, given IAG’s interest, the Government should “play hardball” on the matter.

Tánaiste Joan Burton later said on RTÉ’s This Week programme that the issue of the Heathrow slots would be “absolutely foremost in the Government’s mind” in any decision that was to be taken in relation to Aer Lingus.

Originally published 3.07pm

Read: Aer Lingus rejects takeover offer from the owner of British Airways >

Read: This is what it takes to become an Aer Lingus pilot >

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