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Shannon Airport: Motion (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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  12 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan] I have said previously in the context of the new Limerick local authorities being established that there needs to be an examination of the lands owned by Shannon Development in advance of this new company taking ownership. In County Limerick alone, Shannon Development has 250 acres in Plassey, 300 acres in Raheen, 220 acres in Askeaton and 15 acres each in Kilmallock and Newcastle West.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley There will be no planes landing on those sites.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis They will all be privatised.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan There might be no planes landing anywhere unless something is done.

There is no doubt there is a perception in County Limerick that we have been at a disadvantage by virtue of the fact we are outside the IDA Ireland loop in attracting foreign direct investment and with these lands being held in another State company's ownership. To improve the attractiveness, not only of the Shannon Free Zone but for the counties covered by Shannon Development, the Government needs to review these land banks which stretch from south Offaly to north Kerry and decide what will be best for the individual communities to use these lands to attract foreign direct investment or local small and medium-sized enterprises.

Regarding Shannon Airport's strategic location, there are opportunities for expansion. For a long number of years, the airport has had a strong attachment to transatlantic routes. In the recent past, there has been further development of these. All Deputies will appreciate that for tourism in the west, be it for Donegal or for Kerry, it is absolutely essential that transatlantic visitors land at Shannon as a first resort rather than bringing them into the eastern seaboard which has reached saturation point with overseas visitors. Any Deputy representing Connacht, the mid-west and even Kerry will agree that it would be far better to get overseas visitors into Shannon Airport rather than into Dublin Airport. The marketing of the airport, and how aggressive that will be, by Fáilte Ireland and the structuring of landing and overall charges by the airport will be critical in making it a choice destination. The engagement of the new airport authority with the National Roads Authority, Clare County Council and Galway County Council is critical in ensuring the motorway between Limerick and Galway is finished. Shannon Airport, in the centre of this network, would then be allowed to spread its tentacles even further.

I worked in the Shannon Free Zone for several years in an industry very closely related to the airport. I could see the impact transatlantic, domestic, British and European routes had on the local economy, as well as the entire mid-west region which extends down into north Cork and north Kerry. It is essential we get this authority right for the business community, hoteliers, their employees and those who elected us.

All parties will acknowledge that the region has been disproportionately affected over the past several years in the structures of its local governance, local authorities and a whole clatter of other structures. It is not a political statement but reality. We need to turn over a new leaf. With the establishment of the joint Limerick local authorities and the separation of Shannon Airport, there is now an opportunity to do more to address this. There is even a possibility that the airport will develop a much stronger link with the new Limerick local authorities so that when people fly into Shannon, they will know the nearest city is Limerick. We can see it tangibly every weekend with Munster rugby and so forth how important the airport is.

I support this motion. I am a Deputy from the mid-west region and it is critical Shannon Airport is given the independence it so badly craves.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I call on Deputy Niall Collins who is sharing time with Deputy Calleary.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate which is of immense importance to the future development of Shannon and the mid-west region, including my constituency, Limerick. The importance of Shannon Airport as an economic driver for the region is well and truly documented. One only has to look back over the history of the growth and development of Shannon Airport to see how it has been an employer, as well as leading to spin-off associated industries.

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