THE Irish government must retain its shares in Aer Lingus in order to protect its tourism industry and foreign investment into the country, US billionaire Donald Trump has claimed.
In a two-page letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny the American businessman outlined the reasons why he believes the State’s shares in the Irish airline should not be “given away to the highest bidder”.
"Aer Lingus, like the Irish shamrock and Guinness, is essentially Irish with a strong national identity which is very important to your country. It should not be given away to the highest bidder", he wrote in the personal letter, which was sent to the Taoiseach last month and revealed by the Irish Independent this week.
"Aer Lingus is a brand that you and your country should be very proud of. It is much more than a business transaction," he added.
Suggesting that Mr Kenny keep hold of the State’s 25.1 per cent share in the airline, which holds valuable slots at Heathrow Airport, Mr Trump explained: "An island nation that depends so heavily on tourism, foreign direct investment and business links needs as much advantage as it possibly can get.
"Shannon Airport has begun to grow its numbers over the last number of years and it needs time to make its contribution to the economy of the West of Ireland, of which I know you are a proud citizen.”
The international businessman and star of The Apprentice in the US has long been an investor in Ireland.
His Trump International Golf Links & Hotel resort is a five-star offering located in Doonbeg, Co. Clare, which the businessman plans to invest “many millions” more into in the future, he confirmed via his letter.
Mr Trump’s contribution adds to the ongoing debate over the future of Aer Lingus, which Willie Walsh’s International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), which owns the British Airways and Iberia airlines, is attempting to buyout.
If successful, IAG will account for 51.6 per cent of passengers passing through Heathrow Airport.
In January Aer Lingus' board recommended a £1 billion offer from IAG, subject to the Irish state selling its 25 percent stake.
The government has yet to come back with a final decision on the offer, while there has been significant opposition in both political and trade union circles in Ireland to the deal.