However, Mr Varadkar said that if Cork Airport secured its independence now, the airport “would immediately be loss-making”.
Speaking during a Seanad debate on the State Airports (Shannon Group) Bill 2014, Mr Varadkar said: “Unlike Shannon Airport, Cork Airport’s operating costs substantially exceed its revenues. To operate on a commercial basis it would require significant redundancies and or pay cuts, which nobody is proposing.”
Mr Varadkar said that while it is not the right time for Cork to become independent “it could be done when the time is right, and this legislation allows a mechanism for it”.
The Transport Minister said that independence for Cork “is not right for the DAA now because it carries a debt of €200m as a result of the new terminal”.
He added: “If this debt stayed with Cork Airport it would crush Cork while if it stayed with the DAA it would severely damage its balance sheet at a time when it needs to deal with pension issues.”
Figures for 2013 show that passenger numbers declined by 3.5% to 2.3m.
Mr Varadkar stated: “We need more people to visit Cork. Unfortunately, it is largely an outbound airport.”
He pointed out that the DAA established the Cork Airport Development Council at his request and it had its first meeting in March. “Its remit is to pull the interests of the region together, try to develop the airport and give people more reasons to visit the region and use the airport.”
Cork economist, Dr Seán Barrett told the minister that he supported his decision in relation to Shannon “so, why can Cork not have its independence?”
“I do not like the idea of the airport run as a colony of Dublin,” he said.