Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the Government will retain a golden share in Shannon Airport to ensure there is no risk or concern of closure at any stage.
Mr Varadkar was responding to concerns of Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley that an independent Shannon Airport, run by local interests, will ultimately result in its closure.
Mr Varadkar said: “I am not willing to do anything that I do not believe in my heart will be a success. The whole point of the process is to make a success of an airport which has been in decline for some time. Whatever happens I assure anyone with concerns that the airport will stay open.
“Notwithstanding what action will be taken, at a minimum some form of golden share arrangement will be required to ensure the Government can step in again to ensure there is no risk or concern of closure at any stage.”
One of the options put forward by the Booz & Company consultants report is to involve local public agencies in the operation of the airport and exploit the land bank at the airport.
However, Mr Dooley told the Dáil: “Involving the local authorities and Shannon Development or expecting that the land bank can be monetised in the current climate is farcical.
“The future viability of Shannon Airport would be compromised greatly if local authorities or Shannon Development were expected to provide additional revenues to meet the ongoing running costs of an airport which is the default location for transatlantic emergencies and required to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Minister Varadkar is looking at allowing the local authorities to close the airport should it fall into their hands, as they would be left with no choice but to scale down operations and ultimately close it because of the very significant cost of running it. Even with trimming back airport operations further, I cannot see how it has the capacity to survive,” Mr Dooley said.
Mr Varadkar poured cold water on local authorities operating the airport. “Local authorities may have a role to play in ensuring the future of Shannon Airport, but I do not believe it will be their role to subvent or run it.”
Shannon’s debt presents a big issue. “It needs approximately €8m in cash to break even. If this debt can be written down or part of it left with the Dublin Airport Authority, it would drastically reduce the subvention. This is one of the issues that must be considered.”
Mr Varadkar said he expects to make a decision on the airport by Easter.
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