* Irish parliament approves sale by 74 votes to 51
* One government MP votes against, expelled from party (Adds confirmation of MPs expulsion, analyst comment)
DUBLIN, May 28 (Reuters) - Ireland’s parliament approved the sale of its 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus to IAG on Thursday, clearing a hurdle for the takeover of the airline and limiting political damage for the government.
The government on Tuesday agreed to sell its stake after British Airways-owner IAG gave reassurances on jobs and routes following months of talks to soothe the concerns of government MPs under pressure from opposition parties and trade unions.
The government’s decision, which had to be ratified by parliament, was approved by 74 votes to 51, with just one member of the junior Labour party voting against the government, a protest the party expelled him over, a spokesman said.
With the government’s large parliamentary majority, the vote had been expected to pass easily.
Less than a year from parliamentary elections, the bid had risked becoming politically toxic for the coalition government when at least a dozen backbench MPs expressed reservations after Aer Lingus’ board backed IAG’s provisional offer in January.
“I think they (the government) have done a remarkable job, I would have predicted that there was no way this would go through before the election,” said Eoin O‘Malley, politics lecturer at Dublin City University (DCU).
“It doesn’t look like there’s much damage.”
After securing government approval, IAG must now seek the backing of Aer Lingus’ other major shareholder, Ryanair, to seal the deal. Ryanair said it would consider the bid once it had received the formal offer document. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by David Evans)