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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 Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan] As I said in my budget speech, Governments are normally either pro-people or pro-business. This Government is not pro-anything; its motto is "Let's find a handy solution and throw it out there without considering whether it will work." The statement continues:

This decision is connected to Knock’s emergence as a credible international airport. Today it has circa 700,000 passengers and 28 overseas destinations and with Europe’s largest airlines Ryanair and Lufthansa together with Aer Lingus and Flybe. The Airport currently has 45% of the UK Seat Capacity market in the West of Ireland including Shannon.

One would imagine that such a business would be encouraged rather than faced with the possibility of a kicking. It continues: "The decision avoids any attempt to benchmark and look for value for money." I thought this was a Government policy.  "Knock’s commercial growth meant that in 2012, it managed to fund 92% of its total operating costs with just 8% coming from Government."  The airport does not need rendition flights to make it viable. The statement continues:

By contrast, Shannon Airport has losses now reaching €8m per year, even after additional subsidies. The funding of losses at Shannon Airport costs €6.10 per passenger while the comparative figure for Ireland West Airport Knock is just €0.87.   

I am not saying Shannon is not worth it, but the corresponding figure for Knock airport is just 87 cent. The statement continues:

A series of Government statements has indicated that its aviation strategy was focussing on and supporting just one airport. In one such statement it was highlighted that a change in Government policy would be required to stop Knock catching up with Shannon.

Knock Airport is surviving pretty much on its own yet the Government is trying to stop it. The statement continues:

On 31st March 2012, quoted in the national media, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar TD said: 'If nothing was done for Shannon the airport stood in danger of being passed out by Knock airport in passenger numbers, despite a current gap of over 900,000 passengers. ... I think if the trends continue as they are it will happen because Shannon’s numbers are already down 20 per cent this year and Knock is still growing. It is only a matter of time without a change in policy.'

The Government decided it had better change its policy or Knock would keep growing. God forbid Knock would keep growing. Then again, the Government does not want any growth in these areas. Its policies have destroyed these areas, as stated officially by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. The statement continues:

  This parochial decision by Government to blindly pump cash into one State airport, in the absence of any attention to its impacts on a competing airport like Knock, ignores warnings from the Government’s own aviation advisers at Booz and Co. In their report to Government earlier this year they stated that the Government should not proceed with a support package for Shannon before developing a coherent policy towards airports for the country as a whole.

That seems like a sensible policy but, then again, we have given up on the Government in this regard. The statement continues: "Such an approach would have meant looking at the efficiencies of an airport such as Knock and allocating investment where it could get the best return for the tax payer." This sounds like another good idea. It continues:

However, by announcing its package for Shannon ... the Government has made a clear nonsense of its second announcement ... to commence the preparation of a national aviation strategy.

  Over the past 18 months, [Knock airport] presented Government with a series of innovative proposals which would lead to 1000’s more tourists and 100’s of jobs in both tourism and aviation related industries.

We have a business that is doing well. Why would the Government want to stop it doing well? It is an amazing admission on the part of the Government. It is an even more amazing admission given that four out of five Mayo Deputies are members of Fine Gael.


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