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Shannon Airport: Motion (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar]   I have been particularly struck by the degree of support for an independent Shannon Airport across a wide spectrum of interested parties, including business interests, chambers of commerce, and local authorities. Airport users, service providers, and prospective new airport customers, including airlines and aviation companies, have expressed an overwhelming desire to deal directly with Shannon Airport on an independent basis. The State Airports Act 2004 provides the legal mechanism for the separation of Shannon Airport from the DAA. In particular, section 5 (1)(b) of the Act provides for the making of an order to specify the 'Shannon appointed day', to be the day on which the assets and business of Shannon Airport will be transferred from the DAA to the Shannon Airport Authority.

  As Members can see, the draft order for approval by this House is a straightforward one which simply sets 31 December 2012 as the appointed day for separation of Shannon Airport from the DAA. Once this order has been approved by each House of the Oireachtas, it provides the legal basis to progress with the plan that will secure the future of Shannon Airport. My hope is that through co-ordinating with all interests in the mid-west region and working together we can provide exciting and innovative opportunities that will benefit business, tourism and job creation in the region. The task now is to make these plans a reality. I thank Deputies for their attention and look forward to hearing what they have to say in reply.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley I move amendment No. 1:

  To insert the following after "5th December, 2012":

"provided that Aer Rianta International is incorporated in the new, independent Shannon Airport Authority on or before 31st December, 2012."

I thank the Minister for outlining the Government decision to separate Shannon Airport from Dublin Airport. I could almost have expected to hear that same speech back in 2004. Much of the positivity emanating from it is the same kind of information provided by the Department and the Minister then, who believed a bright new dawn existed for Shannon Airport in a separated environment. Others in Cabinet at the time had serious concerns about the potential separation and the impact that would have on both Cork and Shannon airports.

  At the time, the appointed day was left as a fluid date, to allow for business plans to be developed at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports and a provision was put in the legislation requiring the development of business plans that were sustainable and viable. Unfortunately, during the very best of a boom, it was not possible to develop viable business plans at Cork and Shannon with an independent framework in place. A huge amount of work was done on this and independent boards were established at Shannon and Cork.

  In his contribution, the Minister was almost contradictory and negative about the fact separation had not yet taken place, but yet he acknowledged that in 2007, passenger traffic peaked at Shannon Airport to a level of approximately 3.6 million passengers. At the time, I believed those numbers were unsustainable, because they were based on a deal with a particular airline that was unable to meet the targets they had set for themselves, despite the fact they were given an exceptionally good tariff and rates. Therefore, serious efforts were made then to see Shannon and Cork airports as viable entities in a separated environment. I am very pleased direct separation did not take place then, because if it had, Shannon and Cork airports would be cut adrift now. In the downturn we have experienced, they would not be viable and neither the Government nor the State would be in a position to invest in them. In the context of competition, EU rules on state aid would have precluded that. Had separation taken place, both airports would no longer be viable and the State would be left in a difficult position with regard to how it might reinvest in them.

  I accept the separation proposal being put forward by the Government now is somewhat different. However, it seems to make assumptions based on a business plan that I do not believe is sustainable. The Minister has reiterated some of the figures here today. He has shortened his outlook from 2021 - the year he utilised last week - back to 2017 and has stated that by 2017, passenger numbers will be 2.3 million, as set out in the business plan. I ask him to look at the business plan in more detail. I accept the business plan is confidential, but the Minister has shared some of the numbers, so I will do the same.


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