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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 Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara] He said the Dublin Airport Authority was to be gifted the deeds of the Great Southern Hotels and the Aer Rianta International investments in Birmingham and Hamburg, both of which were to be sold a few years later for €355 million. He believed any reasonable person who tried to analyse what was happening could only come to the conclusion that the real agenda being pursued was geared to the enhancement of Dublin Airport. It was clear to him that Shannon and Cork airports were seen as no more than a sideshow in the whole affair and that if either of them had anything of value, it would be taken from them. Mr. Skelly said "the treatment meted out to Shannon through the State Airports Act was nothing short of appalling."

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley He was right.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara He was.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley That is why it never happened.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara The Deputy voted for it. It happened on his watch.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley It did not. It will come to fruition today when the Deputy and his colleagues vote for it.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Will the Deputy, please, resume his seat?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley On a point of order-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I will not take a point of order.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley On a point of order to Deputy Michael McNamara-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I have asked the Deputy to resume his seat.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Is it open to me to offer Deputy Michael McNamara a point of order and give him an opportunity to accept it?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey No, it is not, unfortunately. The Deputy has had his 15 minutes to contribute.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Deputy Michael McNamara can accept my point of order.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara I have no objection to the Deputy raising a point of order with the Chair.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Will the Deputy accept a point of order from me?

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara It is not for me to accept a point of order. It is a matter for the Chair.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Please, Deputies.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara Deputy Timmy Dooley is correct when he says the State Airports Act was an abomination for Shannon Airport.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley The Deputy and his colleagues are implementing today what Mr. Skelly was concerned about in 2004. The Deputy is helping to put it through.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I ask the Deputy Dooley not to interrupt.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara It did not happen on the Government's watch. The Government's ambitious plan for Shannon Airport has been welcomed by the mayor of Clare and the mayor of Ennis. I want the plan to succeed. We are not here to talk about the State Airports Act which was passed a very long time ago.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley We are giving effect to it.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara We are here to talk about the future. I look forward to the future of Shannon Airport with hope.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Given that the Deputy is a lawyer, I am surprised by his lack of knowledge about how legislation works.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara Like my colleague, Deputy Carey, and everybody else on the Government benches, I will happily face the electorate and be judged on the success of Shannon Airport and every other issue on which I vote in this House.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley I want to correct the record. The Deputies must understand that the State Airports Act 2004 will-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Please, Deputy.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley The State Airports Act 2004 will come into effect today when Deputy Michael McNamara presses the "Yes" button.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara I have mentioned what Mr. Liam Skelly thinks.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley The Government is giving effect to what he was concerned about.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara The Deputy voted for it.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley It is unbelievable.

Deputy John O'Mahony: Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony I hope I can bring some reason to the debate to which I am glad to contribute. The Shannon and mid-west region welcomed last week's announcement by the Government that Shannon Airport was to be separated from the Dublin Airport Authority, that Shannon Airport was to receive support and incentives and that its debt would be written off. This is being done to arrest the decline of the airport which has lost over 100 million passengers since 2007. Any such development anywhere on the island would have to be welcomed as long as it led to the creation of jobs, etc. However, it should not be done at the risk of undermining or destabilising any adjacent airport. In this instance, the two closest airports are Cork Airport and Ireland West Airport Knock. I will bow to Deputy Jerry Buttimer's knowledge of Cork Airport, the virtues of which he has espoused.

I want to concentrate on Ireland West Airport Knock. If certain things are not done, the airport could be undermined or destabilised. The Minister and the Government need to take a number of actions to ensure this does not happen. An overall plan for aviation is needed. The Booz & Company report recommended that this be done before the separation of Shannon Airport from the Dublin Airport Authority. We are familiar with some previous aviation decisions that were badly thought out. For example, the last Government built terminal 2 for passengers who never arrived. I ask the Government to engage in a meaningful way with Ireland West Airport Knock in order that a long-term plan can be agreed and supported and the airport's potential can be fully explored and exploited. In this context, I was glad to facilitate last Wednesday the appearance before the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications of the management of Ireland West Airport Knock, at which meeting the officials outlined their plans for the airport. Similarly, I welcome the Taoiseach's agreement to meet the board and management of the airport in the near future to listen to their plans and respond to them.

Everybody understands that in current economic circumstances, the Government is not in a position to write a cheque for €100 million for Ireland West Airport Knock. If the authorities at the airport are to proceed with confidence and create further jobs in the environs of the airport, it is important for them to know there is a definite plan that will be supported. Ireland West Airport Knock employs 100 people and supports a further 900 jobs in the wider region. It would be inconceivable if an airport which has been praised by many stakeholders in aviation and government circles were to be punished in any way for the success it has achieved up to now. Ireland West Airport Knock is in a good place, but it needs certainty and a plan that will allow it to develop on the basis of its recent growth. Passenger numbers increased by 11% in 2011, which is in contrast to all other airports in Ireland. In 2012 almost 700,000 passengers will use the airport which will enjoy 5% growth. It has been referred to as a model lean, mean airport, with a small management team that is ready to deliver on the huge potential of the north-west region.

People might accuse me of approaching this issue from a parochial perspective simply because I represent the Mayo constituency in the House. Ireland West Airport Knock is as important to the north-west region as Shannon Airport is to the mid-west region. My mission is to ensure the airport is supported and allowed to grow in order that it will reach its potential by accommodating 1 million passengers in the not too distant future. The Minister, Deputy Leo Varadkar, and many involved in the aviation industry have referred to it as a lean low-cost airport, with a small managerial hierarchy. Its operational subvention per passenger is 87 cent, which is in contrast to subsidies of €6 or €8 per passenger paid to the State's regional airports. The aviation industry is of significant importance to the future of the country. Ireland West Airport Knock is of substantial importance to the north-west region because it provides the accessibility needed if the potential of the region is to be developed. It is very important for us to secure its future by drawing up a definite plan that will be supported by the Government.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I thank all the Deputies who contributed to the debate on the motion. Some of those who spoke were passionate. I am glad that there is so much interest in the success of Shannon Airport. It is important not only to the people of the mid-west but also to the people of the entire western hinterland. I will respond to some of the points made by various Deputies.

Like everyone else who has commented genuinely on this matter, I appreciate the historical achievements of Aer Rianta International which has been a success story for many years. It was always the intention that Aer Rianta International would remain within the ownership of the Dublin Airport Authority. It can maximise its potential by benefiting from the funding, borrowings and balance sheet capacity of the authority. Aer Rianta International's retail business is integrated with that of the Dublin Airport Authority. It benefits from the group's buying strategies, expertise and purchasing power. This integrated business model also delivers significant corporate management expertise to Aer Rianta International, including in the areas of information technology, treasury, finance, legal risk and governance. Aer Rianta International is an integral part of the Dublin Airport Authority group at this stage. If the financial viability of the Dublin Airport Authority were to be compromised as a result of its separation from Shannon Airport, that separation could not happen. That is why it was always intended that Aer Rianta International would stay within the authority.

In fairness to Deputy Timmy Dooley, his comments are well received. He knew what was envisaged when he voted for separation in the context of the 2004 legislation, as Deputy Michael McNamara said.


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