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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 Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley] I would have accepted it if the Minister had come to the House and said this could be reconsidered, or perhaps that we could assess how the profits of Aer Rianta International could be set apart or consider the possibility of setting out Aer Rianta International as an independent company, letting each of the three airports have some stake in, control of or access to the profits that emanate from it. However, he talked about the considerable risks for Shannon and said, effectively, that as the airport is in a bad position at the minute, it cannot get any worse. Of course it can be worse if the targets are not attained.

If the Minister was prepared to take the same gamble on Dublin Airport as he is on Shannon Airport, we would see a very different outcome. In particular, he should be prepared to separate Aer Rianta International and utilise the revenues and profits that emanate from that business to shore up the balance sheet of Shannon. However, that is not happening, unfortunately. I am particularly disappointed that the Labour Party and Fine Gael interest in the region is not forcing the Minister to protect Shannon Airport in this instance. We hear a lot of talk in this House and outside about people's interest in the region. The Minister of State should not seem surprised. I have heard him say that he loves Shannon Airport, that he has used it and that it means a lot to him. If it does, he should stamp his foot around the table with his senior Minister.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I do.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley It is not working, no more than it worked last week in regard to the cuts the Labour Party allowed to be thrown on the most vulnerable people in Irish society. If the Minister of State was serious about protecting the infrastructure and the airport in the region and allowing for balanced regional development, at a minimum he would have sought that a percentage of the profits of Aer Rianta International would be ring-fenced, either by way of a shareholding or through a separation of Aer Rianta International, in order to support Shannon and Cork into the future.

The Minister of State is well aware that past projections indicated the airport would be viable, and this was based on the notion that somehow Ryanair's support for the airport would benefit the wider audience. While we heard figures at the time that suggested the wider region would see increased job creation and so on, it did not happen. During the better years, the principal activity at the airport consisted of people travelling outbound and, while this created additional revenues for the car park, it did not support enhanced tourism or enhanced activity and did not translate to the wider region.

The Minister referred to the necessity for the airports to contribute to the improvement in the economy and said that for this reason they must be a commercial success in their own right. He and I have had that discussion across the House in the past. If that is case, and if he is serious about the commercial reality of the three State airports, why not separate out Aer Rianta International in its entirety? Why not decide that this is a separate revenue source for the State? Why not sell Aer Rianta International and assist with the broader development of infrastructure? He has not done this. Instead, he has left it with Dublin Airport. I do not want to talk about a bias with regard to the east and the west coast, but this is an asset that was developed in Shannon with the aim of making Shannon Airport a commercial success right from the start. If one talks to people such as Liam Skelly who were instrumental in the development of that company, one will know they never saw it as a contribution to broader airport activity in this country. They acknowledged the changes that were coming in aviation and recognised that Shannon Airport would no longer be a transit point for refuelling. They saw there was a requirement to offer the kind of rates that would be attractive to bring airlines in and a necessity for an external revenue source. Therefore, they went ahead and developed a fantastic company that trades internationally. However, while that company has a significant value, it is now being transferred away and Shannon is losing out on the double. I am particularly disappointed that the Minister is trying to introduce a requirement for commercial viability when he is effectively strapping one arm of Shannon Airport behind its back. While that arm is strapped behind its back, he is removing the other limb, which was Aer Rianta International.

This is why I have proposed an amendment to the motion.

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