More on the Aer Lingus Shannon (no) Show…

They are not happy down in Limerick… But as ever they have lots of links to other blogs… The petition against the move out is over 8500 strong… Fine Gael spokesman Pat Breen makes it clear why the good folk of the West reckon they’ll get a result on this;

‘The furious response in Cork to Aer Lingus’s more recent plans to axe flights from Cork to Heathrow proves that the airline will respond to pressure. Yet the lack of a collective Government response to the Shannon crisis means that thousands of business and tourism jobs in the Shannon region remain at risk.

‘I am urging Aer Lingus Chief Executive Dermot Mannion to respond swiftly and re-instate the Shannon to Heathrow services when he visits the region on Friday to meet with business groups. However, if the Fianna Fáil Government is genuinely committed to the development of the Mid-West region, it must take action soon.’

So Fine Gael, like Sinn Fein, is painting this as single ended story.

Only, as the FinFact’s blog notes, the decision, is, or should be, a strictly commercial one. And the business case for Shannon is rapidly disappearing:

O’Dea has compared Mannion to seventeenth century English leader Oliver Cromwell, the most hated Englishman in the history of Ireland. Abuse is easier than explaining where are the existing plans for an airport that is already depending on the temporary business from the transit of US troops for the Iraq War and is subject to loss of business from the EU/US Open Skies agreement? [emphasis added]

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  • al

    Is anyone else sitting thinking “diddums” ?

  • Juan Carr

    I’d say 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 very 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 trouble is that 20 yeras ago alot 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 have to sit alongside 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 future, because if a FF-led govt is seen to be favouring investment in the 6 counties over investment in the south, which is the suspicion now, there will be a potential whirlwind to reap politically – and possibly for decades.

  • can anyone point me towards an example where an online petition of itself caused an about-face by its target?

  • DK

    To Juan Carr (fnarr fnarr). I am not sure how you can read a commercial decision by Aer Lingus to relocate from a small city to a medium city as some sort of wierd governmental plot.

    Aer Lingus are a private company, as are Ryan Air – don’t think that they care about borders: Is the fact the Aer Lingus and Ryan Air fly out of England some sort of example of the governments trying to get Ireland back into the union!!!!

  • 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, 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 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, ye still own 25% of the company, 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 con’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”.

  • maehara

    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?

    Because they’re a private company & that’s commercially sensitive information, perhaps?

    It’s probably been mentioned elsewhere, but if the route is viable, then it’s up to Shannon Airport’s management to sweet-talk another airline into taking on the route – just like Belfast International’s management no doubt spent a long time sweet-talking Aer Lingus. That’s just business.

  • Juan Corr

    Commercially Sensitive? I’m sure Mannion would have relied on that excuse in many of the interviews he’s already given, but he hasn’t.

    And that’s because: there’s no point. It doesn’t matter WHAT the difference is between the margin of profitability of the new routes versus the Shannon ones (in fact I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if the real difference in profitability is down to the different conditions being offered to the pilots in Belfast, but I’d support him on that one).

    He is under orders from Bertie et al to carry this through, end of story. That’s it in a nutshell. If he fails, his job may be on the line. If he succeeds….he’ll maybe get a 10% discount on his seat at the FF Galway Race Tent next year.

    Non-negotiable, of course.