The transport minister said he may consider auctioning the naming rights to one of the country’s state airports in a bid to raise cash.
Leo Varadkar’s comments came as he grounded a proposal to rename Cork Airport after one of the country’s first international music stars — blues guitar legend Rory Gallagher.
Mr Varadkar said his focus is on ensuring the loss-making airport survives the recession, but he added: “In this context, it might be worth considering auctioning the naming rights to a campaign or company but I have not given that much thought.”
He was responding to a Brussels-based woman who is spearheading a campaign to rename the airport after the legendary musician.
Donegal-born Rory Gallagher was raised in Cork and bought his first Stratocaster guitar in the city’s famous Crowley’s Music Store.
He shot to fame with his band, Taste, in the 1960s, before embarking on a solo career.
He was voted Melody Maker’s International Top Musician of the Year in 1971, ahead of Eric Clapton, and sold 30m records.
But he struggled for decades with alcohol abuse and died in a London hospital in 1995, aged 47, from complications after a liver transplant. He was buried in Cork.
Gallagher fan Brigitte Lehmann used an online campaign last year to gather almost 7,000 signatures from around the world calling for Cork International Airport to be renamed the Cork Rory Gallagher Airport.
She cited the example of Liverpool which changed the name of its airport to John Lennon Airport in 2002. “If Liverpool can change its airport to John Lennon, Cork could certainly change its airport to Rory Gallagher.”
She presented her petition to Mr Varadkar, the Dublin Airport Authority, Cork City Council and to the director of Cork Airport last October. She also lobbied Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly and said he seemed receptive to the idea.
She said renaming the facility would help boost the city’s international profile, and help attract tourists.
“Not only would the name change give great artist recognition for Rory Gallagher’s achievements internationally but it would also give Cork Airport recognition worldwide.
“It would bring publicity, create jobs, increase business, make a lot of people happy — it’s a win-win opportunity for all players.”
But Mr Varadkar, who is considering a report on the future of the three state airports, rejected the proposal.
“Rory Gallagher was a fine musician and artist, and the people of Cork are justly proud of his association with the city. It is not the practice in the Republic of Ireland to name our airports after people and I don’t have any plans to change this.”
Pointing out that Cork Airport was loss-making and heavily in debt, he said: “My priority is to ensure the airport survives the recession and that jobs and connectivity is protected.”
The minister is due to publish an abridged version of the Booz & Company report on the future of the state airports within weeks.
Cork City has, in recent years, honoured Gallagher’s memory. A tribute sculpture to Gallagher was unveiled in the newly renamed Rory Gallagher Place off Paul St in 2007. In 2004, the Rory Gallagher Music Library was opened in the city’s central library.
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