The Fine Gael TD issued the response during a Dáil debate on whether Ireland’s second city is being drained of vital transport connections and income from tourists coming to the region.
Speaking during a heated discussion on the issue, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said there is great concern among the Cork population and surrounding region about the future of its airport.
The opposition TD said there has been a “serious decline” in the number of flights to and from the facility since the recession began and that the situation is having a negative impact on vital tourism and industry sectors.
Mr Martin said passenger numbers have fallen 40% in recent years with an average fall of 5% to 6% every 12 months, and that the recent reductions of Aer Lingus and Ryanair’s routes to Lisbon, Nice and Brussels are a sign of further crises to come.
The Fianna Fáil leader said while Cork Airport is struggling the nearby Shannon Airport has seen passenger numbers rise 18.7% at the same time, indicating the situation cannot be blamed exclusively on the downturn or motorway developments which make it easier to travel to Dublin Airport.
Mr Martin said Cork Airport is not being allowed to “operate on a level playing pitch” and that the facility has become “very much subservient to the Dublin Airport Authority’s diktat” due to the Government’s recent decision to “abolish” the Cork Airport Authority.
However, despite the Fianna Fáil leader calling for a series of issues to reinvigorate the facility including a “route development fund”, the re-instigation of the Cork Airport Authority and potential discounts for airlines to set up routes from and to the region, the claims that the facility has been starved of resources were strongly denied.
Responding to the comments, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said there is no truth to claims the facility is being downgraded.
“I find no evidence whatsoever to back up the deputy’s claim that this airport is being in any way downgraded. This is a Government that has supported tourism in a way no Fianna Fáil government ever did and has got rid of measures, like the airport travel tax, that Deputy Martin’s government brought in,” he said.
Mr Donohoe said while he has no involvement in whether airlines set up routes to Cork Airport or not the Government is conscious of its importance.
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