The Dáil is to vote tomorrow on whether or not to approve the sale of the State's 25% stake in Aer Lingus to International Airlines Group.

Much of today's Dáil business was dedicated to comments on the sale.

Opposition parties criticised the deal as a bad one for the country and for the airline's employees.

The speed of the vote has also drawn accusations from the Opposition that the Government is treating TDs with contempt.

IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh has said he understands Ireland's protection and loyalty to Aer Lingus, but said IAG's deal would be a "growth story" for the airline.

There were lively exchanges this morning in the Dáil with Opposition leaders accusing the Government of "coming in at the eleventh hour and trying to ram the sale of Aer Lingus through the House".

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe of being "dishonest" as he did not have the basic courtesy to let the Opposition know about the Government's plans.

Mr Martin said that at the very minimum the matter should be presented to the Oireachtas committee where relevant documentation can be analysed.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said it was a classic case of media management and the Taoiseach had refused to answer a whole range of questions.

Mr Adams said he wanted a debate, but he also wanted to see all the documentation in relation to the sale.

The takeover bid was described as "a sham" by Sinn Féin's transport spokesperson.

Dessie Ellis told the Dáil that "it's very sad we've come in today to express our opinions on a done deal".

He said the deal showed blatant disregard for the Oireachtas and for its role in something of such importance.

Fine Gael ideology was behind the decision, he said, and described it as a nail in the coffin for Aer Lingus.

The Government hopes to get Dáil backing for the sale of the State's 25% stake before TDs head back to their constituencies for the holiday break.

Last night a potential stumbling block was surmounted when a group of Labour TDs, including Clare's Michael McNamara and Dublin's Joe Costello, who had been cool on the deal, backed it.

Mr Costello this evening described the initial bid by IAG as "predatory", however, he welcomed the revised bid.

He reminded the Dáil that Fianna Fáil sold 75% of Aer Lingus. He said not one Fianna Fáil member stood up in the Dáil in 2006 to speak against that sale. 

Dominic Hannigan pointed out that Labour deputies came up with a motion that was put to the national conference of the Labour Party last February.

He said they expressed concern that there was no independent evaluation particularly in relation to Heathrow slots, a firm commitment to employment, connectivity to Heathrow slots and a plan regarding regional airports.

Mr Hannigan said that the Labour TDs with reservations had "improved that area" in the last four months.

He said that if the sale goes through, Labour would be closely following progress and he added if union has any concerns regarding REAs, deputies would address it.

One Labour TD who lives close to Dublin Airport said whether he liked it or not, Aer Lingus' future could not be predicted.

John Lyons said that for a company to survive, it needed relevance and dependency.

Mr Lyons said the proposal would increase dependency but at same time maintain all there is to aspire about Aer Lingus.

Independent TD Tommy Broughan said Labour deputies had promised at the Labour Party conference that any sale of the 25% would be used to resolve the appalling cuts to the deferred pensioners.

He said the Government's use of the funds for connectivity acknowledged there would be damage to connectivity.

Sale described as 'hostile and unpatriotic'

Fianna Fáil’s Sean Fleming said Aer Lingus was a company that was now 60% Irish-owned and controlled, but tomorrow it would be “owned by the Arabs”.

He said the sale was hostile and unpatriotic.

This afternoon, Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesperson Niall Collins said there had been a lot of dishonesty on the Government's side.

He said he did not accept the cast iron guarantees, and asked what would happen if Qatar Air decided to take over IAG.

Independent TD Shane Ross said the free market creates more wealth, but some of that wealth must be spent to defend the weak.

He said a large amount would come into the Government coffers.

Mr Ross said some of this should be directed to those who had been impoverished by what happened to the Aer Lingus pension, and some of the money could be spent to give pensioners their rights.

Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger said the manner in which the debate was organised is "disgraceful".

She said the Government is trying to railroad the vote through tomorrow before people in communities that are dependent on Aer Lingus have time to lobby their TDs, particularly Labour TDs.

One in four people in Aer Lingus could lose their jobs under this deal if IAG follows the path taken with other companies, Ms Coppinger said.

Independent TD Clare Daly said Aer Lingus is an iconic brand that is held with pride for generations of Irish people.

If Aer Lingus needed somebody to take it over, she said, surely the board and management should have gone out and sought a partner.

Independent TD Róisín Shortall said the sale of Aer Lingus was a shambles, and said all the indications are that it had a very bright future as an independent airline.

She asked how it could possibly be in the national interest to sell to IAG, whose shareholder interests had nothing in common with the interests of the Irish people?

She said she remembered well in 2006 how the 25% share was described as a "golden" share that would give blocking rights.

Independent TD Seamus Healy launched a scathing attack on the Government.

Mr Healy said the manner in which the IAG takeover bid is being "bulldozed" through the Dáil was an "abuse". 

He accused the Government of keeping the Opposition in the dark, while briefing the media, describing it as "an unprecedented level of arrogance".

It smacked of a Government "rapidly trying to clear the decks ahead of the next General Election", he said. 

He also criticised Mr Costello, saying his contribution was to "protect windy Labour Party TDs who made promises that they'd be opposed to this deal". 

Investors getting 'long-term certainty' - Noonan

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said that long-term FDI investment decisions are much easier to make in an environment of certainty.

He said any long-term concerns about air transport are being eliminated with the Aer Lingus sale.

Investors are now being given long-term certainty, he said, with regard to island-wide connectivity for foreign direct investment.

Mr Noonan said that this can only contribute to job creation.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said yesterday's decision by the Government "represents an opportunity not a threat".

He warned against "crocodile tears" from the Opposition benches as Fianna Fáil privatised Aer Lingus.

He added that Aer Lingus evolved from a State airline when only the few could afford air travel to a successful era of mass air travel.

He said the shamrock will now be visible in more destinations than ever before.

Fine Gael minister Michael Ring congratulated Minister Donohoe on work on the sale, and the officials in his department.

He said it was a different deal than was offered many months ago.

It was a good deal for Ireland, Aer Lingus and the workers, he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny earlier rejected the Fianna Fáil leader’s assertion that he was treating the Dáil with contempt.

He pointed out that the objective today was to give everyone an opportunity to comment and have their say in respect of the Government decision.

The Taoiseach said it is clear the Government got the best deal for the country.

He said the IAG offer is the best means of securing connectivity to the rest of the world and it will best serve the interest of the travelling public, the company and its employees, the Irish tourism industry and the Irish economy as a whole.

SIPTU calls on TDs to vote against sale

Elsewhere, SIPTU has called on TDs to vote against the sale of the State's shareholding in Aer Lingus to allow time for the full consideration of an internal Aer Lingus report, which has revealed major job losses are envisaged in the event of an IAG takeover.

General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Patricia King has said she has serious concerns over the Government's approval to sell its stake in Aer Lingus.

Trinity Senator and Professor of Economics Sean Barrett sharply criticised the proposed sale and said the negotiators for Ireland must have been asleep.

He said IAG will get a profitable airline with 75 aircraft, hundreds of routes, Heathrow slots, the iconic Aer Lingus brand and the transfer of €545m in cash.

He said it is anti-competitive and promises that are being made are "not worth the paper they are written on".

Asked if Aer Lingus can survive on its own, he said it has 11 million passengers, which is what Ryanair and Easyjet had at the turn of the century, and both now have 100 million and 70 million.

He said Aer Lingus is considered a model airline in developing from a State airline into a highly efficient middle range carrier.