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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 Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis] I do not wish to make little of the efforts of those involved in planning for the future of Shannon Airport. The plan for Shannon is laudable in its ambition and I very much hope it is successful. However, I fear it would be jeopardised by the removal of Aer Rianta International and the funds this brings to Shannon. Any future for Shannon must ensure good conditions for the workers who have kept the airport on its feet and will continue to do so. The new airport authority must work with unions and employees to ensure they are not mistreated in the changeover. Unions need to have more of a say but to date they have not received receive proper consultation in the process.

I am thankful that plans to privatise Shannon Airport have not been put forward. Some have argued for competition between our airports but these people do not argue in the interest of the people of Ireland, rather in the interests of their own profit margins. However, judging by previous comments made by the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, I know he leans towards privatisation, as does this Government. It is hard to believe the Labour Party is going along with the privatisation agenda.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Why does the Deputy say that?

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis This can be seen in the removal of Aer Rianta International, which I see as the setting up of Shannon for a fall that will lead ultimately to it coming into private hands. Shannon is not just an airport, but a town and a community which have thrived because of the airport's links to the rest of the world. We should be mindful of this and of the need to support this community as it begins its uphill struggle to win prosperity. I support the amendment to the motion.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We will allow Deputy Wallace to share time, as requested.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I refer to the separation of Shannon Airport and the DAA. The Government claims that doing nothing is worse than doing something but that is not always the case. I hope the ambition to create 3,500 jobs as a result of this move will be achieved in the long term - it would be brilliant if this happens. I certainly hope it will and I wish the project well. However, it is pushing it somewhat to believe this plan will work. The projected passenger figures, moving from 1.5 million to 2.5 million in the coming years, are very optimistic. I agree with the two previous Deputies about Aer Rianta International. It will be difficult for life to work at Shannon without the benefit of Aer Rianta International, which is sure to make a few bob.

I am afraid this could be the beginning of the end for Shannon as a serious airport although I hate to think that. Perhaps in some years time Shannon may become just a regional airport. I wonder if it is being cut loose. Some companies are to come in within the new amalgamated group, but perhaps we are watching the facilitation of the arrival of the last few vultures to pick on the carcass that is Shannon. It was interesting to note that the Kerry Group, which, to its great credit, set up a new research and development centre in Ireland rather than go offshore like so many others, has set up in County Kildare. According to the group, it needed the connectivity of Dublin, in particular Dublin Airport. What does that company think of the future of Shannon Airport? How optimistic is it that Shannon is a viable long-term project, given that it did not decide to set up in Kerry, or at least in the Munster region to which it has shown loyalty over the years?

The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, stated that part of the new Shannon strategy will include attracting further military stopovers. He noted that the number of US troops using the airport has dramatically declined as the American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has decreased.

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