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Analysis/Comment Last Updated: Sep 12, 2010 - 10:28:00 AM

Ryanair, the Dublin Airport hangar, jobs and a media campaign
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Feb 17, 2010 - 6:57:15 AM

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Ryanair supplied photo of Hangar 6

Ryanair chief executive, Michael O'Leary, on Tuesday night confirmed that the airline will not go-ahead with plans for 300 aircraft maintenance jobs at Dublin Airport because the Government would not force Aer Lingus to surrender a hangar, in the legal control of the former State airline. This all seems like another media campaign, which the low fares airline is famous for.

Last week began with a media blitz from journalist George Lee seeking to dictate the footnote of an ephemeral political career. This week, a polar opposite, Michael O'Leary, took the stage with a claim that following the confirmation last week that it would invest over £8m to build a new (second) hangar facility at Glasgow's Prestwick Airport, which will see over 200 new engineering and support jobs, Ryanair had offered to create up to 500 maintenance jobs in the former hangar, used by the now closed SR Technics (SRT).

The airline wanted the Government to force the DAA to sell or lease the SRT hangar for the same (arms length) price that the DAA had purchased it from SR Technics, which had maintenance services there until the closure of the operation in 2009.

“It’s sad that neither the Tánaiste nor the Transport Minister are willing to stand up to the DAA monopoly, even if this results in the loss of 500 well paid engineering jobs at Dublin Airport," Michael O'Leary said on Sunday.

The DAA had signed a 20-year lease on the former SRT-owned Hangar 6 with Aer Lingus.

Ryanair wants the Government to cancel the lease and give it control of the hangar.

The Ryanair media offensive had its impact and according to The Irish Times, a worker who had been with SR Technics for 20 years told the RTÉ’s Liveline programme, that he was “totally flabbergasted” that the possibility of 500 jobs being kept at the airport had not been pursued, and he accused Tánaiste Mary Coughlan of “pure incompetence” in not taking every avenue to maintain the jobs.

Couglan agreed to meet O'Leary on Tuesday evening and her meeting decision was termed a "humiliating climbdown" by one media outlet - - a politician is a fool for appearing to reverse course and a fool for not doing so.

The Tánaiste said after the meeting with O'Leary on Tuesday that the Hangar 6 facilities could be replicated through a new build elsewhere on Airport lands where a number of viable sites exist for this purpose; it may also be possible to accommodate the proposal in space remaining available in other hangars at the Airport.

She said she enquired as to why Hangar 6 was the only option being pursued by Ryanair and why, in particular, Ryanair could not locate the project at a new hangar which they could build elsewhere at the Airport as they were doing at Prestwick Airport.

The Irish Times reports that O'Leary said after the meeting last night that: “tragically 300 jobs we could have created in Hangar 6 will now be lost because the Minister will not ask the DAA to vacate Hangar 6”.

The number of hoped for new jobs as with all such projects, is not a commitment but an aspiration - - the key term is usually "up to". The DAA said last Sunday that it leased hangars to both a new firm, Dublin Aerospace and Aer Lingus and those businesses will provide employment for "more than" 250 maintenance personnel - - but that too is likely to be aspirational.

Michael O'Leary also said on Tuesday night: “The DAA has a clause to allow it to move Aer Lingus’ tiny line maintenance operation out of Hangar 6. The Government owns the DAA and the Government will not take any action. It makes you pine for the days when Albert Reynolds or Charlie Haughey were running the country.”

What the Ryanair chief is advocating is oldtime cronyism where a Minister makes ad hoc decisions and ignores the legal authority; it seems improbable that he would be very eager to hire former employees of the highly unionised SRT operation, which was at one stage owned by Aer Lingus.

Would IDA Ireland be funding a mainly Eastern European workforce?

The issue this week has kept Ryanair in the spotlight in pursuit of a weakened hare.

It's still unclear whether Ryanair has had serious plans to create 500 or 300 maintenance jobs at Dublin Airport.

If it has, there is surely a better way than corporate bullying; if it hasn't, then it could be accused of cynical use of the unemployed.

DAA contract with Ryanair with get-out clause highlighted

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