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Ryanair’s says it has been told its bid to take over smaller Irish rival Aer Lingus is to be blocked by Europe’s anti-monopoly watchdog.

This was Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary’s third – and he said final – attempt to buy Ireland’s former flag carrier.

The low-cost airline denounced it as “not based on competition law” but a “political” decision “to meet the narrow, vested interests of the Irish government” – which owns a quarter of Aer Lingus’ shares.

The European Commission said no final decision has yet been taken.

Following a meeting with Commission representatives, Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely said: “It appears clear from this morning’s meeting that no matter what remedies Ryanair offered we were not going to get a fair hearing and were going to be prohibited regardless of competition rules.”

Aer Lingus said it had not been informed of any decision, but said it had always expected a rejection.

“It was and remains Aer Lingus’s position that the offer should never have been made,” it said in a statement.

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