The Government has said it will not be bringing pressure to bear on Aer Lingus to reverse its decision to end its Shannon-Heathrow service.

Speaking this evening on behalf of the Government, Minister Mary Hanafin, said that while the Government was deeply disappointed, it would be inappropriate for the Government to intervene in the decision making of a private company.

The Minister said that the Government would seriously consider any proposals or motions put to it in the event of an Extraordinary General Meeting of Aer Lingus.

She said it would be a decision for the Government at that time. She also said that she understood the concerns of all the politicians in the region.

The statement said the Government remained committed to ensuring the connectivity of Shannon and would continue to promote the mid-west through targeted investment in education, infrastructure, industry and tourism promotion.

The Atlantic Connectivity Alliance has expressed disappointment at the statement by Minister. It said it would continue to work vigorously to ensure an early and successful resolution was achieved by whatever means possible.

The Minister's comments would seem to contradict those of the Defence Minister.

Earlier, Willie O'Dea said the Government should, as a last resort, use its 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus to reverse the airline's decision to end its Shannon to Heathrow service.

The Minister indicated that he would prefer that airline management change its decision before an EGM of shareholders.

Meanwhile, the IMPACT union has said Aer Lingus has rejected an offer from pilots to call off their planned 48-hour stoppage.

It said the airline has rejected a proposal to suspend its recruitment plans in Belfast and enter into talks.

As a result the pilots' strike is set to go ahead next Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Aer Lingus Employee Share Ownership Trust is to seek a meeting with Aer Lingus over the withdrawal of the Shannon-Heathrow route.

Following a meeting, ESOT issued a statement to say it is seeking professional advice on the company's decision.