The warning came from Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley who claimed: “If Shannon is cut adrift, the state cannot subvent it due to EU state aid rules, while it is technically receiving assistance through the DAA.”
The Clare TD was yesterday responding to comments made by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey who said that he has no ideological hang-up about the future governance of Shannon airport.
The Government is due to decide, next year, on the separation of the three state airports.
Mr Dempsey, however, cautioned those calling for Shannon to secure its autonomy. Speaking in Ennis, he said: “There are quite a number of people off the top of their heads who say ‘give it autonomy’. What autonomy means is that you are on your own. You have the independence, there is no state aids, you can’t give state aid to airports, can’t do it.
“Shannon will be in competition with Cork and Dublin and so on. So when people talk about autonomy, they need to know that is what it means, complete independence and paying your own way.”
Mr Dooley claimed Shannon would lose out on millions of euro currently used to cover losses.
“What is to be gained by full autonomy? Losing the €7m or so from the DAA will mean that the airport will have to cut costs significantly and that doesn’t put you in a stronger position to attract airlines.”
He favoured a structure similar to the CIÉ model where a holding company would act as a national airport authority, with subsidiaries with their own powers able to complete against each other.”
Calls have been made for Shannon to secure debt free status but Mr Dempsey said: “You can’t write off the debt, somebody has to pay it.
“I am not pre-empting what plan might come from any of the airports but it is not a simple matter of just saying ‘off you go, so Shannon, here is €20 million’, you just can’t do that.””