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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 Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer] When the Booz & Company report was commissioned, I held a special one day clinic to discuss the airport. I also made a submission to the consultants who were commissioned to prepare the report. Everybody who spoke to me highlighted the necessity of developing Cork Airport, the importance of short haul flights and new investment and the need to give the airport autonomy within the DAA. I welcome the Booz & Company report and the decision by the Government to retain Cork Airport within the DAA but it is important that it is given autonomy in deciding its future despite the huge debts that are crippling it, thanks in the main to the party opposite. That same party must also answer for crippling our country.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Did the Deputy not want the investment in Cork?

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Deputy Dooley is singing an old hymn. It is important to listen to the people.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Read the facts.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer If he consulted them he would realise that his party did not get it right.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley How did the debt arise?

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I know the facts about Cork Airport better than he does. I will debate the topic with him anytime.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I ask the Deputies to speak through the Chair.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer For Cork Airport to reach its potential, it needs to have space within the DAA umbrella. The plans set out by the Government will help that to become a reality but bold and difficult decisions will be required in regard to the DAA and how it does its business. Deputy O'Donnell spoke about terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. He is correct that we must look beyond Dublin. I look forward to the expansion of Cork Airport and the introduction of additional routes. I wish the new chief executive, Mr. McCarthy, well in his new role and hope that the Government will work with him in developing the airport.

Deputy Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin The sentiments expressed by the Deputies from the mid west who spoke in this debate can be epitomised by the word "hope". The Government's plans for Shannon Airport are giving great hope to the mid west that the problems which have seen the airport haemorrhaging €8 million per annum in running costs alone, in addition to its burden of capital debt, will be addressed so that it can continue to play a significant role in the region. I welcome that hope for the sake of the people of the region but, just as Deputy Buttimer spoke on behalf of Cork, I speak on behalf of the people of the west and north west. It is not right that hope given to one area should be at the expense of developing another part of the country. From what can be gleaned from the plans for Shannon, it appears they will dash the hopes of the area from which I come.

  Ireland West Airport Knock is an international airport and its runway has international capabilities. It has flourished from a seedling not by virtue of great corporate investments but because the people of the area got behind it. The area was ravaged by emigration and previously never had international connectivity. Monsignor James Horan captured the imagination of the people when he asked why they should not be connected. The facts speak for themselves, with 700,000 passengers passing through the airport on 25 international routes and five major airlines. They would not use the airport if they did not get a good deal. Knock Airport's efficiency was acknowledged by the Minister in his plans to deal with the State airports. Even though Knock does not enjoy the benefits accruing to State airports, it is none the less a true airport for the people. It is run by a trusteeship and all but one of the trust's members serve on a voluntary basis. The airport is integral to the future development of the west and north west region. We have great plans for tourism but we are peripheral and we need to be accessible. Multinational companies are attracted by the connections offered through Knock.

  The plans for Shannon, in failing to consider the island holistically, diminish Knock's prospects. It has been suggested that an independent Shannon Airport will be great. I applaud the ambitions that have been set out for Shannon but I remind the House that it did not develop in the same way as Knock. It will be given a package to allow it to be self-financing and sustainable into the future. The Minister's comments suggest that passengers will be drawn away from airports like Knock which have operated on a shoestring budget. That is not the way we should approach our business. It has also been suggested that Knock and other airports should work with Shannon. This is a ridiculous suggestion, however. Who sets out the policies for the airports in this country in terms of how they operate vis-à-vis each other and the parameters for their future development? We need a national strategy because we cannot focus on one region in isolation. This Government and Parliament serve all the people.

  Deputy O'Donnell spoke about balanced regional development. This decision attacks competitiveness and the free market. Knock Airport almost exclusively operates in the free market other than the capital grants and running cost grants it receives from the State, which are minuscule in comparison to the amounts paid to the State airports. We need a reality check on Knock. Unless an overall strategy is developed, decisions will be made in isolation to the detriment of other regions. While other airports, such as Cork and Dublin, remain in State ownership, they can hope for rescue packages should they need them. It is not acceptable that Knock should be left on its own simply by virtue of the way it came into being.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I am opposed to this motion because it will put Shannon Airport under further pressure to maintain itself by facilitating the US military war machine. By removing the most profitable component of Shannon, Aer Rianta International, the airport will be forced to increase its dependence on military traffic from the United States in order to maintain its viability. The Government is aware of this fact. The motion is also another stepping stone on the way to privatisation and undermining the conditions of workers and employees. The absence of consultation with staff and unions is indicative of what is going on.

I note that Michael O'Leary is opposed to the changes because he wants full privatisation of the airport.

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