We want to protect Cork Aer Lingus base, says Minister

We want to protect Cork Aer Lingus base, says Minister
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath said he recognised the strategic importance for both Cork and Shannon of having a regional base for Aer Lingus and that they want to protect that and see it survive into the future.Picture: Andy Gibson

As concerns mount over the future of the Aer Lingus regional base in Cork, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath has pledged that the Government will do all that it can to protect it.

On Friday, Aer Lingus announced that it would be seeking redundancies within the company and that it was reviewing the scale of its flying programme and the ongoing viability of its regional bases in Cork and in Shannon.

In a statement, it said that the “catastrophic impact of Covid-19 on the aviation sector had been compounded in Ireland by the implementation of the most restrictive travel policies in Europe and the failure to implement support for the sector.” The airline also said it had not made the required progress on the implementation of industry standard work practices with key cohorts of employees.

“In this context and given the Aer Lingus quarterly results today, significant redundancies are required across the business,” it said.

Speaking to the Echo, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath said it was “a deeply worrying situation for everyone whose livelihood depends on the Aer Lingus regional base at both Cork and Shannon, but also the wider aviation sector as we know has been devastated by the impact of Covid-19.” 

The Minister said that the job of Government now is to work with the company and to do whatever it can to help.

“I recognise the strategic importance for both Cork and Shannon of having a regional base for Aer Lingus and we want to protect that and we want to see it survive into the future.

“So I and my colleagues stand ready to meet with the company and to do whatever we can to help them come through this incredibly tough period for the whole sector," the Minister added.

Over the weekend thousands of people signed a petition calling on the Government to provide state aid to Aer Lingus.

The petition, which had secured more than 14,000 signatures by Monday afternoon said that the Government “needs to support Aer Lingus if it wishes to continue with its current non-essential travel advice. If it doesn’t, this government will go down in history as the one that presided over the wind-up of Aer Lingus.” 

Aer Lingus did not comment on the petition. 

When asked if the Government is likely to give State Aid to the company, Minister McGrath said: “We need to know exactly what the ask is from the airline.

“Over the past couple of months I would have had a number of briefings from them and they have kept us informed of the evolving situation and I think it is fair to say that they would have hoped by now that the situation surrounding international travel would have improved, but it hasn't because of the situation with the virus internationally and so it remains a hugely challenging environment for everyone involved in aviation."

He added: “I would hope that we can engage directly with the company very, very shortly, understand what their needs are and what their plans are for maintaining a future for this great company over the period ahead, also protecting those strategically important regional bases that we have in Cork and in Shannon.

“There is engagement. I expect that engagement will move onto a different level shortly. We’ll see what is required and Government will do all that it can to be of assistance.”

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