The Taosieach, Bertie Ahern, has said that while the Aer Lingus decision to move its operation from Shannon to Belfast was disappointing, the Government would do nothing to undermine that decision.

Speaking for the first time since the airline announced its decision last month, Mr Ahern said the focus must now be to get another operator into Shannon.

He said the Government had no advance warning of the decision, adding that it contravened the Government's aviation policy and the spatial strategy.

He also said there is no split within the Cabinet on the issue.

Earlier today, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said it will be several weeks before it is known if an alternative Heathrow service can be established at Shannon Airport.

Mr Dempsey said the focus must remain on attracting an alternative airline to operate the service and he said contact has now been made with British Airways.

Yesterday, he was insistent that the Government would not support a Ryanair bid to force Aer Lingus to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss the Shannon withdrawal.