The Minister for Transport, Martin Cullen, has announced he is to advertise for the replacement of three senior executives in Aer Lingus.

Mr Cullen said a conflict of interest would not be allowed to arise between the current roles of the executives and their future intentions.

He said the chairperson of Aer Lingus was having discussions with the three regarding media speculation that they are planning to set up a low-cost airline.

Earlier, opposition parties called on the Government to make a decision on the future of the airline urgently.

Fine Gael's Olivia Mitchell said the executives' move would be good news for travellers, but very bad news for Aer Lingus.

She said she feared a serious conflict of interest leading to an immediate need to find replacement management for Aer Lingus.

Ms Mitchell also said the firm was particularly vulnerable to low-cost competition on transatlantic routes, where the loss of business would destroy the State airline.

Meanwhile, Labour's Roisín Shortall said the Government had promised a decision on the future ownership of Aer Lingus by Christmas, but this had not happened and the company had been allowed to drift.

She said that while Chief Executive Willie Walsh and his colleagues were preparing for life after Aer Lingus, the Government is making no preparations for Aer Lingus after Mr Walsh.