THE chairman and the board of Aer Rianta and the Minister for Transport Seamus Brennan are this weekend at the centre of yet another stand-off over the future of the state airports company.

It had been signalled that, under the partnership deal agreed in recent days, Aer Rianta would be dissolved as part of the legislation due to go through the Dáil in the coming weeks establishing three new state airport companies ? Dublin, Cork and Shannon.

However, sources close to the board of Aer Rianta told The Sunday Tribune this weekend that it was the view of the directors that the existing board, under the chairmanship of Noel Hanlon, will remain in place until April 2005 as per the partnership agreement agreed last week.

The sources also claimed that this was also the view of the Aer Rianta trade unions.

However last night sources close to Siptu rejected this and said that it was the union's understanding that Aer Rianta would be dissolved.

But it is clear that the board of Aer Rianta does not accept that its days are numbered, raising the prospect of the board taking some form of legal action against the government ? its sole shareholder ? introducing the new legislation.

The board's interpretation runs directly contrary to the line from government sources.

They say that once the State Airports Bill is passed by the Dáil next month and becomes law, the old board of Aer Rianta will be dissolved. The assets of the old Aer Rianta company will be transferred to the control of the new Dublin Airport company until 30 April 2005.

Next April, the Minister for Finance ? based on the viability of business plans drawn up by the new boards ? will be asked to sign off on the transfer of assets to the Shannon and Cork companies.

The compromise solution on the setting up of the three new airport companies was agreed late last week after all night negotiations.

Finance minister Charlie McCreevy raised concerns about the breaking up and its potential impact on the taxpayer. The issue was further complicated by company law which requires that when a plc is being broken up that the value of the assets being spun off - in this case Shannon and Cork - cannot exceed the value of the company's reserves.

The expectation is that the Dublin company will have sufficient reserves by next April to legitimately transfer assets to the new Shannon and Cork companies.