Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan has dismissed claims by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that Shannon Airport’s continued success was being gained at the expense of Cork Airport.
“Blaming Shannon for issues at Cork is very wide of the mark,” Ms O’Sullivan told reporters in Limerick.
Mr Martin said the business model put in place at Shannon, now independent from the control of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), represents a race to the bottom resulting in Shannon taking 100,000 passengers from Cork.
He said this situation has arisen due to new deals struck by the now independent Shannon.
Mr Martin, speaking in the Dáil, said Shannon can offer deals to Ryanair from which Cork is precluded.
He said: “Approximately 100,000 passengers were going through Cork and they are now going to Shannon because of the deals that can be offered. That is what DAA officials are saying behind the scenes. I believe it [the Shannon model] is a race to the bottom and one the Government should reflect on and change tack in terms of ensuring a feasible long-term future for Cork Airport.”
He said a route development fund had to be put in place for Cork Airport.
Ms O’Sullivan strongly rebuffed Mr Martin’s claims and said Cork Airport must fight its own corner.
She said: “At the time when Shannon Airport was given its independence, it was made very clear that Cork couldn’t separate itself from the Dublin Airport Authority, because of outstanding debt and a number of other issues. Even I think Micheál Martin would probably admit Cork can’t stand on its own at the moment, where Shannon could.
I think everybody in the Shannon region, not just senior Government ministers, has got behind the airport and it has been a positive success story. We still want to build on it. There is huge potential in terms of the aviation industry generally in Shannon that still hasn’t been met.
“We do have a cluster of a lot of activity, but I think we can have more. Our priority in this region is to build up Shannon. But we are not trying to do it at the expense of any other airport. Cork has to stand up for itself and fight for itself and I think Cork people are pretty good at that. So blaming Shannon for issues in Cork, I think Micheál Martin is very wide of the mark regarding that.”
Profits at Shannon jumped 34% in just one year, with passenger numbers up 17% and European traffic up 70%, according to the first annual report of the new Shannon Group plc published earlier this week.
The report shows that Shannon’s profitability for the full financial year 2014 improved by 34% on the previous year.
Group chairwoman Rose Hynes described the results as “satisfactory” and said the group was now embarking on a five-year strategic programme to address under-investment and improve cost efficiencies.
“I am confident that Shannon Group will make an enduring positive impact on our communities and the economic landscape of Ireland,” said Ms Hynes.
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