No political block on Cork-US flights, says Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the political blocking of Norwegian Air’s long- standing bid to fly trans- Atlantic from Cork Airport appears to have lifted.

Cork South West TD Jim Daly called on the Taoiseach to convene a mission to Washington DC in a bid to resolve the dispute.

“It is not safety reasons blocking this, it is not commercial reasons, it is purely political,” Mr Daly said in the Dáil. “There is a political deadlock preventing all transatlantic traffic coming into the second largest airport in the country.

“Now with a new administration coming into Washington, would he consider sending a delegation to Washington to ask that politics be taken out of this?”

In response, Mr Kenny said the Government has supported and continues to support the Norwegian Air project and that he and several of his ministers have raised the matter in Washington consistently in recent years.

“The Government supports this; the opportunity that exists for Norwegian Airlines to be able to fly the Atlantic and land in Cork, Shannon, and to a lesser extent, Knock. This matter has been raised by the ministers over the years,” he said. “I myself had the opportunity to raise it directly with the president of the United States on two successive St Patrick’s week visits.

No political block on Cork-US flights, says Kenny

“The union of airline pilots were blocking this for some time. They have lifted that blockage and they are happy to go ahead provided the pilots who fly the routes were paid at European and US rates. There was a fear that pilots from the Far East [would be] only flying the routes at a lower rate,” Mr Kenny told the Dáil.

He said he would be very happy to continue to make the case on behalf of Cork Airport.

Meanwhile, the costs associated with the building of the National Children’s Hospital have doubled to more than €1bn.

Tipperary Rural Independent Alliance TD Mattie McGrath said the costs were now like a “runaway train”, prompting some hilarity in the chamber given news reports in the papers about the Limerick-Ballybrophy line costing €550 per passenger. Mr McGrath told the Dáil he still opposed plans to locate the hospital at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

He said the projected cost over-runs could fund a resolution of the public pay crux and fix health service problems like those at Clonmel Hospital.

“What is staggering is that these costs exclude fit-out costs for equipment and IT,” Mr McGrath said.

In response, Mr Kenny said the planned hospital would provide children’s health services for the next 50 years. He said the matter would be the subject of a memo to Government from Public Expenditure Minister, Paschal Donohoe, and Health Minister Simon Harris, which caused the two ministers to appear somewhat surprised.

Mr Kenny said value for money would be central to government deliberations.

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