The airline’s early growth was stalled by the onset of the second World War. Yet when peace returned, it quickly established a route network to the Continent and then to the United States. It played a role in the growth of Ireland’s tourism and industrial development that cannot be overstated.
When Aer Lingus celebrated its half century in 1986, it dominated aviation in Ireland. A year before, an upstart challenger had appeared on the scene. But with just one 15-seat aircraft, 25 staff and only a Waterford-London route, Ryanair was not giving Aer Lingus executives any sleepless nights. Much has changed since then.
The State holds a 25 per cent shareholding to prevent Ryanair gaining a controlling stake. Given the Government’s need to sell non-essential assets, however, retaining that share is hard to justify.