Local Reps Differ Over Aer Lingus Loot

Aer LingusAer Lingus

With the sale of Aer Lingus all but done and dusted, the question now is how will the government use the €335m proceeds of the sale. Already there has been a clamour from TDs across the country, looking for the completion of transport infrastructure projects for their own areas.
The windfall from the sale is earmarked for a connectivity fund, which is related to transport or travel projects. With Aer Lingus being one of the most significant employers in the North County, there is a strong feeling that the money should be allocated to the proposed light rail system, serving the airport and Swords, thus providing tangible benefit that the sale was worthwhile to the local economy.
The County Leader spoke with leading politicians in the North County to find out if there is unanimity among them that the funds should be allocated to this vital piece of infrastructure. Government representatives were broadly in agreement that a world class transport system was a good project in which to plough the money. Opposition politicians could be accused of playing politics with the issue, while supporting a light rail solution, prioritised other projects instead.
There is no doubt that everyone in the North County, including our public representatives want a light rail transport system to serve the airport and Swords. However, the level of disagreement as to where their priorities lie in this regard, will come as a surprise and disappointment to many.
It is a fact that we are lagging way behind the southside, when it comes to the subject of world class transport systems, and our own local representatives can’t come to an agreed stance about this vital project.
Alan Farrell TD (FG) told the County Leader that he thought that putting the money towards a light rail system was a good option. He said, “The mooted connectivity fund is expressly for the purposes of capital investment in transport related infrastructure on and off the airport campus, for the benefit of all.”
“It can be very readily used in terms of infrastructure around the airport. €335 million would go a long way towards an investment directly serving the airport and Swords, which is a critical piece of infrastructure for the North County, linking into the Luas network serving the city and country as a whole. This kind of connectivity would be of great help to everyone using the airport,” he said.
Brendan Ryan (Lab) was also very supportive of the idea of the fund being used for transport in the area, when he said: “The Minister stated that the fund can be used for infrastructure projects, which would benefit ports and airports and a light rail/metro north would fit this criteria.”
“He also stated that the total cost of a light rail option would exceed the expected total of the connectivity fund. So, whilst a connectivity fund could play some role in part funding such a project, it would not pay for such a project in its entirety” he concluded. Surprisingly, opposition politicians took a different stance. Deputy Clare Daly (NP) and Senator Darragh O’Brien (FF), while both strongly supporting the light rail or Metro option, saw the settlement of the pension dispute at the airline as the main area where the money should be spent.
Daly said: ”Any monies that are there should be put into the falling standards of that pensions scheme. Investment in public infrastructure is always welcome and Metro North should be going ahead regardless of the Aer Lingus sale, but it should not be at the expense of Aer Lingus workers.”
Senator Darragh O’Brien (FF) also said the priority must be to reimburse the Airport pension scheme holders. “The Metro North project is entirely separate and it would be extremely cynical of the Government to link it in any way to the Aer Lingus sale. This project must go ahead regardless. At the very least they should return some of the profits to pension scheme members who were forced to take savage cuts to facilitate the deal,” he concluded.
Local Minister James Reilly has chose not to make himself available to comment on this topic.
The power of rural politicians is that they always pull together to get facilities and services for their regions. The sincere hope is that our politicians will not use this issue as a political football.