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Ryanair launches blistering attack on Bus Eireann and Irish Government

The airline claimed the way in which the government used an estimated €485m generated from an EU scheme was a ‘scandal’

Ryanair Group CEO Michael O'Leary© Corbis via Getty Images

Ken FoxeIndependent.ie

Ryanair said it was “deeply troubling” how EU funding to tackle emissions was being used to shore up unprofitable school bus routes as it launched an extraordinary attack on the Government.

In letters to the Department of the Environment, the airline claimed the way in which the government had used an estimated €485m generated from an EU scheme was a “scandal”.

In the astonishing attack, it accused the department of a “fraudulent diversion” of 76pc of the environmental funding to Bus Éireann.

The airline said the bus company’s fleet was “extremely emission intensive” and claimed the funding was simply being used to prop up an unprofitable semi-state.

It also lambasted the department over their explanation of where the other 24pc in funding went after being told it had gone on “Climate Finance”.

In correspondence with the department early last year, Ryanair’s Director of Sustainability and Finance Thomas Fowler said: “This lack of transparency under a green minister [Eamon Ryan] is inexplicable and unacceptable.”

In response, the department said that it did not accept the assertions made in the letter and that Ireland was “fully complaint” with its requirements.

It said funding the school transport scheme was an eligible category for expenditure and that it provided critical transport for almost 120,000 students, including 16,000 with special education needs.

“In the absence of this scheme, most of these students would require transportation via private vehicle, thus leading to a significant increase in transport emissions.”

In another letter to Minister Eamon Ryan last February, Ryanair said there had been an “inexplicable failure” by the department to provide a clear or transparent response to their concerns.

A letter said: “Our concern is that these buses were operating unnecessarily leading to emission growth. Again, we call on you as minister to provide transparency on the actual emission reduction benefits from the use of these [emissions trading] revenues and clarity on how this is calculated.”

Ryanair claimed it was “farcical” to say the scheme was not being used to prop up Bus Éireann, saying 25pc of the bus company’s annual costs were covered by emissions funding.

In other correspondence to the department, the airline said Ireland was being unduly punished under the terms of the Emission Trading Scheme because it was an island on the periphery of Europe.

It said unlike most EU countries, Irish people had few alternatives to airline travel such as rail or road transport while long-haul airline carriers, despite being responsible for far greater emissions, were exempt from the taxes.

They said Ireland should be reinvesting some of the funds in air travel that would help reduce fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and noise.

Ryanair’s Thomas Fowler wrote: “Investing in these new aircraft technologies is the most effective decarbonisation tool presently available to the industry here in Ireland.”

Asked about the records, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment said Ryanair had been incorrect to term the emissions scheme a climate tax.

He said: “It is a cornerstone of the EU’s policy to combat climate change and a key tool for reducing greenhouse gasses cost effectively.

“Aviation has been included in the [scheme] since 2012 and the European Commission has estimated that aviation’s participation in the scheme has contributed to almost 200 million tonnes of reductions of CO2 emissions over the past eight years.”

The spokesman added that if the school transport scheme was not in place, there would be tens of thousands more cars on Irish roads each day.

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