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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] The Minister promised this legislation 22 months ago and designated the Irish Aviation Authority as the noise regulator. He got that wrong, as well as getting wrong the necessity for legislation by thinking a statutory instrument would do. The authority had started recruiting specialised staff but he had to reverse that and has now designated Fingal County Council as the noise regulator to deal with these legacy issues. This is a critical piece of infrastructure with an enormous impact on the Irish economy that indirectly supports 97,000 jobs.

Why the delay? Why the mess-up? The Minister has messed up and he has delayed both the nomination of a noise regulator and the initiation of legislation. What is the Minister, Deputy Ross, doing with the most critical piece of infrastructure before his Department? The Government has known about this since 2014 and there has been no action. Why is the Minister so indecisive on this issue? Why has he been so ill informed? Why has he failed to do the groundwork on all these issues? When can we finally expect the legislation to be published and passed in order that this project can get under way?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy for raising this very important issue for our economy and for Ireland's connectivity around the world. The Government is 100% behind the DAA and its plans for a new parallel runway, the new north runway, at Dublin Airport. The project is contained in Project Ireland 2040, in black and white for anyone who needs to know where the Government stands on it. I would encourage the DAA to get started on building the runway. There is a Government decision supporting its efforts to do so and the legislation will be through these Houses and done and dusted long before the runway gets built. The legislation will allow Fingal County Council to become the noise regulator for the airport and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport intends to bring the legislation before the House after the summer, which will give effect to the new regime, but there is no reason work on the runway cannot begin.

Dublin Airport is Ireland's gateway to the world. It takes approximately 30 million passenger movements every year and in the past decade has begun to provide direct flights to China, the Middle East, the west coast and Africa. It receives no taxpayers' money whatsoever and turns a profit, out of which it pays a substantial dividend to the taxpayer. It is also a very large employer in north and west Dublin.

It is also important to acknowledge the role of our other airports, which are important to our aviation policy. In Shannon Airport, for example, which has now been separated from the DAA, passenger numbers are up by 25% since separation and it is making a profit again. It has very exciting plans to develop its avionics and aviation services industry, of which the Government is also very supportive.

We are working very closely with Ireland West Airport, Knock, to advance its plans for further developments and we are in discussions with the European Commission on being allowed to give 90% grant aid for the airport's capital developments. Cork Airport has been increasing connectivity and is very important, as are the airports in Kerry and Donegal which have public service obligations, PSOs, from the Government to keep them going. That will continue as it provides access to counties that are not served properly by the motorway network. We are supporting Waterford Airport as best we can, though it does not have any flights any more. However, we think it is important that it is assisted in its efforts to encourage carriers to operate again between the south east and England.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I asked the Taoiseach specifically about Dublin Airport and about the performance of the Minister, Deputy Ross. If the Government was 100% behind the DAA plans, the legislation would have been passed by now. The Government has known about this for many years. The Minister got the wrong nominating body, no homework was done and there was no attention to detail. It is shocking in many ways, given the enormous importance of Dublin Airport not just to the Dublin economy but to the national economy.

I asked the Taoiseach to explain the delays and why the Minister has been so indecisive. He has a track record with DAA, going back to the articles which I mentioned earlier and I hope that does not inform his position.

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