Chamber hoping for Ahern talks on airport debt and docklands

CORK Chamber of Commerce is hoping to meet the Taoiseach this week to persuade him to help resolve the Cork Airport debt row and provide financial incentives for a proposed docklands project.

The chamber’s chief executive Conor Healy confirmed yesterday he was seeking a meeting with Bertie Ahern. The Taoiseach is due to visit the city on Friday.

“In terms of government commitment to balanced regional development, the Cork Docklands project and the outstanding issues surrounding Cork Airport need to be prioritised with instant effect,” said Mr Healy. He said the Government must honour its commitment to the autonomy of the airport and to sorting out Cork Airport’s financial uncertainty.

“Following the recent request by the board of Cork Airport Authority for a joint meeting with both the Minister for Transport and the chairman of the Dublin Airport Authority to discuss their business plan, we will urge An Taoiseach to ensure this meeting takes place without delay,” said the chamber chief

“Cork now has a world class terminal which could see it grow significantly into a piece of regional infrastructure serving the southern half of the country, thereby reducing dependence on Dublin airport.”

The Cork region has the potential to further develop as a competitive international city, Mr Healy said, but continued infrastructure development was needed.

It is expected the Taoiseach will announce on Friday the formation of a Docklands National Steering Forum, which will oversee the largest development in the history of the city.

The forum is likely to be made up of representatives from government departments, businesses, landowners and the city council.

However, Mr Healy said while such a move would be welcomed, he would urge Mr Ahern and Finance Minister Brian Cowan to ensure tax breaks and other financial incentives were made available for the docklands rejuvenation projects. Otherwise, he said, the project would develop at a much slower rate.

“The Government needs to provide significant funding through the Gateway Innovation Fund and introduce a number of targeted financial incentives both in Budget 2008 and the Finance Act, as requested by Cork Chamber.

“This would overcome a number of significant barriers which the proposed development faces,” said Mr Healy.

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