Belfast begins to out gun ‘little Cork’…

As tipped by Conail on this thread, David McWilliams offers an unsentimental economist’s view of the Shannon-Belfast story. He puts the problem fairly straightforwardly:

Belfast has the population — its conurbation is three times bigger than Cork. It has the airports, the motorways, the electricity grids and now the income levels. It is understandable that local politicians from the west are complaining about the Aer Lingus move. They are the ones under threat, not from Aer Lingus and its decision, but from the long-term economic implication of the Belfast Agreement.

It’s a difficult issue for Sinn Fein, who seem to have plumped for painting out the northern part of the equation, and making it an issue for the Republic’s government:

Government inaction since Aer Lingus announced its decision to withdraw its Shannon to Heathrow route is astonishing, both from a political and economic perspective. The Taoiseach’s silence, whilst his Ministers and back benchers squabble amongst themselves, is truly remarkable.

During last years negotiation on the privatisation of Aer Lingus the government made much of a commitment to safeguard the national strategic interest by holding on to a 25.1% share hold in the company. Where is that commitment now when the tourism and commercial interests for the entire mid western region are under threat?

The official silence from the Northern Ireland Executive is duly noted.

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  • Aquifer

    The trend which is hard to buck is super-urbanisation where the bigger connurbations get bigger and attract more and more people. Its a kind of gravitational effect, with benefits in terms of the range of business and cultural activities that bigger cities can support. Better that it happens on this island, unless you are trying to imagine a separatist gaelic rural autarchy as an economic model.

  • George

    McWilliams was on TodayFM tonight basically saying that this is what the Irish government wants, the northern economy to become a major player on the island.

    Natural and wished for outworkings of the GFA. Economic unification.

  • DC

    There is certainly great potential in enhancing the Dublin to Belfast corridor, as is the case what with recent infrastructure projects; but, the difficult task is that it in many ways affects the western side of Northern Ireland and could further entrench internal east-west politics too.

    I was reading a debate in the NI Assembly about transport and railway provision linking up the western side of NI along to Fermanagh and the likes, but was struck by the futility of the proposals by many nationalists on the western side.

    Because quite simply Belfast conurbation should take priority and at the moment its commuters on the Larne to Belfast train line remain without new trains. It is imperative that sub-urban development is enhanced over other areas in line with government planning policy.

    Priorities for growth should be set along the eastern board on a Dublin to Belfast axis thus stimulating growth for other areas thereafter; hence PPS14. Deep down I got the impression that it wasn’t so much about curbing bungalow blight but more to do with stopping public money being spread very thinly on service provision by having to collect bins and provide other such amenities to all over the countryside at disproportionate expense, when compared to suburban and urban living.

    Back to the item, it’s a very positive piece and long may such talking-up of positive prospects for Northern Ireland continue. Makes a change from all the doom and gloom often cast up in the media.

  • Pete Baker

    The contradiction, George, is in the McWilliams article..

    We have now arrived at this divergent situation because the Southern economy is slowing rapidly, prompting companies to reassess the medium-term wisdom of additional investment here. Simultaneously, the competitive advantages of the North are becoming more apparent in this light. In addition, the fact that the North operates a different currency, different labour legislation, different pension scheme, different taxation policies and has a bigger state subsidy for practically everything, means that business opportunities for arbitrage between both jurisdictions will emerge and be seized.

    Partition is, in fact, the driver in this process.

  • DC

    “Natural and wished for outworkings of the GFA. Economic unification.”

    More like economic growth that will enhance the private sector thus widening the opportunity for considering unification. If the balance sheets are in the black not red then Southern Ireland may well be in a position to move on a border poll as opposed to the proposition of further subsidisation.

    But the key here is as Pete says partition and the term ‘arbitrage’ in that perhaps the North’s economy, supplemented by public funds, may be somewhat more predictable due to its stability. Tourism is also on the up and air travel and tourism go hand in hand.

    The North could well turn out to be the South’s Hedge fund.

  • The Dubliner

    “I understand that Aer Lingus operates a limited number of slots out of Heathrow and lease out additional slots to other carriers such as BMI & Delta Airlines. I see no reason why Aer Lingus could not have decided to utilise some of those slots to service the Belfast routes while preserving the Shannon service.” – Mary Lou McDonald

    Even Ms Mary Lou is posturing as both an expert in the aviation industry and a self-appointed financial adviser to the board of directors of Aer Lingus Group PLC, floated on both on both the Dublin and London Stock Exchanges. I think she should bog off back to one of her Concerned Citizens committees instead of interfering in the private affairs of corporate boardrooms – where her opinion carries as much weight as a paraplegic ant.

    If Northern Ireland offers greater investment opportunities for Irish companies than the Republic offers, then they should follow the logic of the free market and avail of them. The same logic will send them to Poland and such places in good time.

    “We have now arrived at this divergent situation because the Southern economy is slowing rapidly, prompting companies to reassess the medium-term wisdom of additional investment here.” – McWilliams

    Yup, an increase in the nation’s wealth of only a miserly 19% in 2006 suggests that money-making opportunities in Ireland are on the wane. And if McWilliams care to notice, the asset of the family home is excluded from the equation.

  • clough heaven

    which shows that Ireland’s net wealth grew by 19% to €805 billion in 2006

    Hell’s bells !!+!!

    “Minted baby”

  • George

    Pete,
    as long as partition exists, it will be a driver in any process that involves crossing the border.

    Previously, it was a driver for dislocation, division and destruction but finally we all on this island have a chance to heal the wounds, economically at least. And people are chomping at the bit to get in on the Klondike feeling.

    As was also pointed out on the radio piece (maybe not by McWilliams), the road to the border is now finished while they are still beavering on the Cork and Limerick ones.

    Belfast is the second city of the island and a place where with a bit of fine tuning, this island can’t develop some more economic muscle.

    That is in the interests of Ireland and the Irish people.

    What people are really worried about, as DC points out, is not that the eastern seaboard will become even more prosperous but that the western side of the island will fall behind.

    But the natural order of things is being restored so Irish eyes are now looking north not west and will do so for the foreseeable future.

    Dubliner,
    19% is miserly?

  • George

    Sorry should read “can develop” obviously.

  • Pete Baker

    George

    It’s a driver in the sense that partition is being used for corporate benefit.

    Economic unification?

    If the Northern Ireland economy was in parity with the Republic, and it’s open to question as to how that would be measured, but if it should, the elements mentioned by McWilliams will remain as differentiations between the two.. and will always be exploited as such.

  • IJP

    Pete, George

    So the Unionists get a prosperous North (nominally) within the UK, and Nationalists get “one country, two systems”?

    There was a danger of real politics breaking out. But real economics might get there first.

    Sounds good to me! But there’s many a slip…

  • páid

    The vast majority of countries have land borders with other countries. Unionists shouldn’t worry and Nationalists should calm down.

    From Maastricht, you can be in Belgium, Holland, France and Germany within 20 mins.
    Maastricht remains Maastricht.

  • DC

    “But there’s many a slip…”

    Well there’s always the ECB to protect a bad fall.

  • George

    Pete,
    as McWilliams also said, the Republic aims to have a political say in how Northern Ireland is run and the logical next step is to have an economic say.

    We are at the beginning of a new era so it could also be argued that partition has led to a gap that is now slowly being filled.

    You say “and will always be exploited as such”

    I firmly believe the Irish State wishes to end partition, not least because it is in its interests.

    And if it can convince its corporate friends that it is also in their interests, then they will be in favour of such an outcome too.

    You may be interested in this very strange comment from SDLP Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Tommy Gallagher who said reports of proposals for a new cross-border tax arrangement for companies operating in the north are “interesting”, but they could pose a threat to indigenous businesses in the border areas.

    “This is a very curious proposal, not least because it is said to be coming from the British Treasury. Basically, the proposal is that companies that invest here would be able to pay tax to Dublin at southern rates.”

    Now such a move would be in the interests of the Irish State and its corporate friends.

  • Pete Baker

    “the Republic aims to have a political say in how Northern Ireland is run and the logical next step is to have an economic say.”

    I don’t disagree, George.

    But it’s impportant to get this into perspective.

    And the perspective is that of US companies claiming influence in the Republic because of their investment there – which was also advantageous to their own corporate interest.

  • If us Cork folk don’t worry about Dublin why the hell should we worry about Belfast 🙂

  • An Céilleachaireach Rúa

    Amen Brudder Mark, Amen. Sham.

    In all seriousness, David McWilliams has been predicting a slump since 1996 or thereabouts so I’d take most of what he says with a fair grain of salt. The Emergence of a Dublin-Belfast economic axis is however, a logical outcome of the political process. Cork will suffer becuase of this to an extent. Still, we’ll continue to be the best county in the wrold and t he home of all that is good, true, culturally enlightened and savage.

    Éire 31

  • The Dubliner

    “19% is miserly?” – George

    Irony doesn’t always work on the Internet text. Sorry. It’s hardly miserly, since the rise puts us in second place in the OECD list of eight leading nations, behind Japan.

    An Céilleachaireach Rúa, he’s bound to get it right of one these years!

    Incidently, it’ll be interesting to see if Irish republicanism takes a beating if the south losses investment to the north.

  • An Céilleachaireach Rúa

    Dubliner,

    It already has, SF have been bunny-in-the-headlights on this as much as FF (indeed, Le Tache has been the only one to come out definitively on the matter) and unlike FF, they have to play both sides of the fence. SF’s voters in the south are not stupid people, when they see SF representatives all smiley at the Belfast launch they’ll make the necessary inferences. We’ve gotten used to having a bit of shrapnel rolling around in our pockets and anybody who jeporadises that will be shown the door very quickly indeed.

    As for McWilliams, the man comes out with some awful ráméis. Breakfast Roll Man my eye.

  • slug

    I hope the south does not export its inflation to us.

  • An Céilleachaireach Rúa

    Slug,

    inflation is usually a fellow traveller of economic growth so as NI begins to expand, you can expect to see prices rise and given that fiscal control is vested in Whitehall then you face a similar situation to ourselves WRT the ECB.

  • slug

    An C

    It will be interesting to see if the competitiveness Irish Republic continues to decline whether there will be difficult days ahead for them, given that they are in a fixed-exchange rate zone and cannot devalue?

  • An Céilleachaireach Rúa

    Slug,

    competitiveness has been an issue for a while now and as anybody involved in manufacturing here will tell you. I certainly know of one manufacturing multinational in Munster that is currently assesing its medium-term options on the QT. Fiscal control is certainly an issue but quite how independent the CB of a small, open economy such as ours would be anyway is moot. I see a similar problem for NI really. Whitehall is not going to set interest rates based on NI’s needs. Especially given, for all intents and purposes, the UK is in the Eurozone already – check how stable Euro-Sterling exchange rates have been over the past 18 months; never much more or less than 0.675 or so.

    Difficult times ahead for Ireland PLC. (North & South) ahead but there will be no return to the 1980s on Slattery’s Bus

  • Lafcadio

    In the last quarter Ireland’s GDP growth has indeed been tearing along, but the consensus on 2008 is slower, at about 3.5% (still a decent lick) down from the expected just sub-5% this year. Inflation is toppy at 5%, at the high end in Europe, which has the effect of eroding competitiveness.

    The property market is a concern – frankly I’d be cacking myself if I had a lot of exposure, either residential or commercial, particularly around Dublin. Interestingly, the EIU says that the risks to their GDP forecast (their’s is 3.4% for ’08) are “large and growing because of the size of the imbalances in the economy, particularly those associated with an overheated property market”.

    Hopefully there won’t be any crash, but it looks like Ireland is set for a cooling-off period at best – although anyone tempted to wish for worse (I mean here defensive unionists mostly..) would be well-advised not to, as it won’t happen in isolation.

    “Economic unification” doesn’t exist. Degrees of economic interdependency, co-operation and symbiosis exist in all economies, and Ireland north and south is no different – but there is no more imperative for political unification in an Ireland where north-south trade picks up, than there is for example in the Benelux countries vis-a-vis their next door neighbours and key trading partners, France and Germany. That’s not to say that there is a high degree of economic integration present in these economies, and that domestic political decisions will have an impact on neighbouring countries – i.e. the nature of international relations.

    It’s another example of the futile zero-sum mentality that has been so present in NI that trade/investment is cast fearfully/gleefully as a short-cut to, or proxy for, political integration – rather than what it actually is, i.e. the exploitation of profitable opportunities where they exist, by the risk-takers and entrepreneurs who are the best hope for both countries of dragging the whole damn place a bit further forward.

  • Lafcadio

    sorry:

    “That’s not to say that there is NOT a high degree of economic integration present in these economies, and that domestic political decisions will NOT have an impact on neighbouring countries – i.e. the nature of international relations.”

    (naive question time – how do you make things bold?)

  • An Céilleachaireach Rúa

    Lafcadio,

    3.5% is a very fine growth rate for a mature economy (even 2.5% is acceptable) The only problem is, Transport21 assumes a growth rate of ~4%…

  • slug

    An C

    Indeed. Scotland, NI, Wales and the North of England all have this problem that rates are upward biased via the effects of a booming south east. This regional mis-match continues and Brown will have political difficulties in the south if he really tries to tackle it. That said, now that NI is booming its not clear that the rates are too high for us currnetly.

    One difference between Britain and EZ is that there are more fiscal transfers within Britan to depressed regions than between EZ economies. People thought that would be a great problem but actually it seems that migration has alleviated this, i.e. people seem to migrate to the booming countries (e.g. Ireland in recent years) which is beneficial in terms of counter inflationary moderation. So, if Ireland cools, and Germany (say) heats up, then these people will migrate from Ireland to Germany, alleviating the problems of unemployment and overheating. That’s how the US works and people previously thought that EU’s workforce wouldn’t be that mobile, but recent experience suggests it may be.

    Interesting point on the stability of Euro-GBP which makes me wonder if Britain’s age old currency crisis problem has finally gone away.

    “Hopefully there won’t be any crash, but it looks like Ireland is set for a cooling-off period at best – although anyone tempted to wish for worse (I mean here defensive unionists mostly..) would be well-advised not to, as it won’t happen in isolation. ”

    Agreed-though I don’t think that unionists are wishing for any such thing. Obviously both unionists and NI businesses have benefited a lot from the economic growth in the south and I would worry about rather than be pleased about the slowdown there. What would be desirable is greater harmonisation in one or two areas such as petrol tax south of the border which seems too low and company tax. On the latter we know the south won’t change theirs so are hoping to have some effective measures for NI come autumn so we can compete more effectively for inward investment. NI’s huge problem when it comes to economic growth is lack of skills though and this will be a difficult headache for the Executive to solve because theres a vicious cycle of low skills and deprivation in some places.

    Fascinating times and big challenges. But at last the folks of NI are focussed on economics.

  • DK

    “Especially given, for all intents and purposes, the UK is in the Eurozone already – check how stable Euro-Sterling exchange rates have been over the past 18 months; never much more or less than 0.675 or so.”

    I’m sorry but this is nonsense. You may as well say that (until recently!) the EU was in the Dollar zone as their currencies remained at a similar exchange rate.

    There is nothing to stop sterling and Euro fluctuating in the future.

  • Briso

    Posted by páid on Aug 16, 2007 @ 12:45 AM
    From Maastricht, you can be in Belgium, Holland, France and Germany within 20 mins.
    Maastricht remains Maastricht.

    20 minutes from Mastricht to France? What are you driving, a missile? 😉

    From: Maastricht
    Netherlands
    Drive: 153 km – about 1 hour 39 mins

    To: Givet
    France

  • Briso

    Posted by George on Aug 16, 2007 @ 12:49 AM

    You may be interested in this very strange comment from SDLP Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Tommy Gallagher who said reports of proposals for a new cross-border tax arrangement for companies operating in the north are “interesting”, but they could pose a threat to indigenous businesses in the border areas.

    “This is a very curious proposal, not least because it is said to be coming from the British Treasury. Basically, the proposal is that companies that invest here would be able to pay tax to Dublin at southern rates.”

    Now such a move would be in the interests of the Irish State and its corporate friends.

    What?!!!! Is Tommy an idiot or is there actually something in this apparently extraordinary proposal?

    Basically, the proposal is that companies that invest here would be able to pay tax to Dublin at southern rates.

    Mind boggling………..

  • George

    Briso,
    I know, it caught my eye too and I was wondering why such an incredible bombshell, if there is any truth in it, seems to have slipped under the radar.

    It is on the SDLP website.

    http://www.sdlp.ie/news_item.php?id=5043

  • An Céilleachaireach Rúa

    DK, I’m afraid it’s not. This is a degree of stability that simply does not happen in open forex markets that often. Forex risk for EZ companies in the UK and vice-versa is pratically non-existant for some time now. For a whole host of reasons, the markets view Sterling and the Euro to be in some way “informally tied”. Sure, it could all go tits-up in the morning but then, so too could the whole Euro project if Szarkozy gets his way…

  • IJP

    Lafcadio

    Excellent post. Spot on on all counts.

    (Sorry Slug, but I guarantee you there are plenty of Unionists who want the Republic’s economy to crash, the new roads to unravel, etc.)

  • Briso

    Here’s the full quote. Thanks George:

    GALLAGHER: PROTECT OUR INDIGENOUS COMPANIES
    Back to Latest NewsSDLP Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Tommy Gallagher said reports of proposals for a new cross-border tax arrangement for companies operating in the north are interesting, but they could pose a threat to indigenous businesses in the border areas.

    He said: “This is a very curious proposal, not least because it is said to be coming from the British Treasury. Basically, the proposal is that companies that invest here would be able to pay tax to Dublin at southern rates.

    “It is not immediately clear whether the arrangement would apply to all international companies, to southern companies or both. In any event, this sort of arrangement would fall far short of the cut in corporation tax that all the parties here have sought from Gordon Brown. However, it could have the potential to attract investment, enhance the all-island economy and contribute to increased prosperity for all, so it could prove an interesting development if it was handled sensibly.

    “However, a lot more detail would be needed to make a judgement. For example, what would the competitive impact be on small indigenous businesses? This is a vital issue for western and border areas where the economy depends to a great extent on our indigenous companies. They are already under enough pressure and they must have a level playing field in tax terms.”

    Quite literally unbelievable, and I therefore don’t believe it.

    “In any event, this sort of arrangement would fall far short of the cut in corporation tax that all the parties here have sought from Gordon Brown.” Well, it would for Gordon. The reduced tax rates would be paid to Bertie!!! Tommy must have the wrong end of the stick. Does someone know him? I don’t. Is he normally sound?

  • slug

    Briso, I don’t believe it either.

    IJP – maybe but not any I know.

  • slug

    IJP Yes, we are proud so we want our roads and rail and business to be as good or better. This is competition but competition is good for us. If anything that complacency-which is not a good attribute- has gone and we know there is better to be achieved. The investment of the south has raised our expectations, which is entirely positive form of competition. But in addition to the competitive aspect there is the positive sum aspect, and here my own view and those who I talk to from business and government sectors (who are mainly unionist by community) are (in contrast to what you suggest) very keen on the opportunities the market in the south provides to our own businesses. It allows us to really kick-start our economy and as we come out of years of trouble, and invest in business. Having a wealthy market so near to hand is an additional boost, many local businesses have orders from there and so do lots of other businesses. Obviously this benefits NI better jobs better better incomes better local government revenues.

  • hovetwo

    Slug, nothing wrong with wanting to raise the bar but I do think there is a danger in viewing north or south as the main benchmark. We are not competing for investment merely on an all-island, or even all-EU basis. In a globalised economy your true competitors may be in Singapore, Silicon Valley or India.

    The positive sum game of greater interdependence and investment across the island will strengthen both economies to compete globally. There is also a great deal of goodwill south of the border for sharing best practice if it is deemed useful.

    Some commentators have argued that global trends are starting to favour smaller, nimbler economies that can adapt faster to changing conditions – Ireland and Singapore inheriting the mantle of ancient city states like Venice or Florence. Competitive advantage is created by building pools of skilled labour in growth niches – Cork has done a brilliant job in creating a hub for pharmaceutical companies, for instance, with university and civic co-operation.

    There is a strong case for aligning educational policies and regional planning – why shouldn’t people from Dundalk use Belfast Airport or hospitals in Northern Ireland? Why shouldn’t planners on both sides of the border count on skilled labour pools being available to support the development of regional centres of excellence?

    There is some mileage in copying the play book that has been used in the south, but there is a lot more mileage in developing complementary strengths in sunrise industries in Northern Ireland. There may come a time when we are all fighting for the scraps on the table, but currently, with the untapped potential of the Northern Ireland economy, we are a long way away from that.

  • slug

    Hoveto I am all for exporting services from Belfast Aldergrove to the good folks from the South – indeed this seems to be what the airlines have in mind.

    NI has a lot of work to do in terms of low skills, though – there is a real problem in this area.

  • hovetwo

    So I understand, but long term reforms also provide an opportunity to get ahead of the curve – if, for instance, an NI Executive was to develop integrated, high-performing streamed comprehensives, then they could also use those reforms to give strong encouragement to science subjects and technical skills…..

    People could also try to exploit short-term opportunities more effectively. In the long run all call centres may relocate to India, but that might be a very long run trend. In the interim this sort of initiative could do much to wean people away from public sector dependency and encourage more female participation in the labour force.

  • Juan Carr

    The sc enario over the next few years could be very interesting because the elephant in the room is that this is an initial step towards national economic & political re-integration.

    I also note the word ‘integration’ seems to have been de-classified by the powers that be as ‘acceptable’ to use in the context of the widening and deepening of north-south co-operation (obviously MUCH preferable to ‘unification’!)and has been seen to creep in to a number of newspaper columns at this stage. The govts involved obviously planned to do this virtually by stealth and as some commentators have picked up on, decided that August would be the ideal time to release this (bad?) news.

    What’s going to be interesting is seeing how all the armchair republicans/nationalists down south (and armchair unionist/loyalists up North, I suppose) will react to the stepping up of this ‘re-integration’ policy. One would have to expect that this is why so many DUP personnel walked away from the negotiations in the run-up to to the Belfast Agreement. I seem to remember 1 or 2 of them saying something along the lines of it being a ‘one-way street towards a UI’ or something like that, and the fear would presumably be that further steps toward ‘re-integration’ would lead to riots in Unionist parts of Belfast in protest at ‘interference’ by the Southern Government.

    The thing is that 20 years ago a lot of people in the south would have clamoured for this. yet now they are seeing, as people are beginning to point out in various columns etc, what the reality of a UI would mean, i.e. a hell of a lot more competition from the North for a start. And as McWilliams, Richard Delevan and Martina Devlin have all pointed out this week, that’s the cold, brutal inevitability of economics-driven policies. many regions in the south will now realise that a) partition has, in a way, shielded them from a lot of harsh economic relaities in the past and b) their so-called republican sympathies are now going to be tested against their desire to operate in a so-called ‘Tiger Economy’ (well, for at least another few months anyway).

    How this little tete-a-tete plays out could also change the Irish political landscape considerably in the near & medium future, because if a FF-led govt is seen to be favouring investment in the 6 counties over investment in the south, which is now a looming suspicion, then there could be a potential whirlwind to reap politically – and possibly for decades to come.

  • slug

    ” the elephant in the room is that this is an initial step towards national economic & political re-integration. ”

    …or not, as the case may be. The DUP will extract as much from the Republic economically as it can, but won’t North-South politics be a DUP-FF axis, as least for as long as SF try to compete with FF for votes in the Republic.

  • Juan Carr

    Well it’s amazing that the question that so far has not really been asked in the south is what is secretly on everybody’s minds, if not their lips, i.e. was this part of the Belfast Agreement? And if it was (or indeed even if it wasn’t), could they not have gone for some kind of compromise, like move 2 of the 4 slots from Shannon to Belfast, or even one, with a second one to follow in a year or 2 once the leased-out slots had run its course?

    I’ve listened to several interviews with Mannion so far and he is being very vague on the details. He just keeps repeating the mantra that ‘Belfast is more commercially viable’ but when pressed on it, he won’t say much more. He even admits that the Shannon routes are also viable, but says the profits there are ‘marginal’. Yet he won’t go into figures.

    Er, why not?

    Simple: because, even though everyone who has been defending AL for the past week has been saying that it’s privatised now and that’s just the way things are in the commercial world,the real truth, I suspect is that he is under orders from the Government of Poblacht na h-Éireann. Privatised airline? Me arse.

    Also, as Michael O’Leary has very clearly pointed out, the govt DOES INDEED have the power to have this decision reversed, and Ryanair has even offered to help them do it.

    The Irish govt says it’s an awful pity that AL has decided to follow this course of action but that, sure, that’s capitalism for you, it’s terribly unfortunate, we know, yeah and all that but they can’t intervene.

    Eh, but…yes ye can, lads. They still own 25% of the company (which they made damn sure they held onto when Ryanair was seeking to take over AL), and now that O’Leary has called for an EGM to table a motion of reversal, all they’d have to do is either ask Ryanair to vote with them (and don’t forget the unions, who’d also vote for reversal) or else Ryanair would be more than happy to abstain, as O’Leary has publicly stated. When a vote is called on the motion, hey presto. Disgruntled shareholders win by at least a 2-1 margin.

    But I have a funny feeling this won’t happen.

    As Peter Mandehlson said in that quote from the interview featured on Slugger some months back,

    “The Process IS the policy”.

  • Aideen

    Belfats may be the second conurbation but it is not the second city!