Treatment of Cork Airport: A question of fair play for South West

THERE is something chilling about the response given by most Cork City-based members of the Dáil to two simple questions posed by the Irish Examiner on Tuesday in relation to the tribulations of Cork Airport.

Each was asked: A. Do you think the airport should receive a debt write-down?

B: Do you think it should have an independent authority separate to the Dublin Airport Authority?

While opposition deputies would have been expected to answer Yes to both questions, the response by the 12 Government TDs is depressing, to say the least.

Only three, Michael Creed, David Stanton and Noel Harrington, all FG, agreed that the debt should be written off and that Cork Airport be managed independently.

The response of Simon Coveney, the city’s only cabinet minister, was the most depressing of all. He is of the view that the first question covered an issue too complex to answer in that way.

“Yes and no don’t cover it,” he said.

Fair enough, but what does?

“The debt burden needs to be properly managed,” says Minister Coveney. The obvious question is ‘how?’ but the minister does not bother to enlighten us.

He then tells us that the airport is better off within the structure of the DAA, despite clear evidence that it is anything but.

In that respect, his view tallies with Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe who has ruled out any possibility of the airport being separated from the stranglehold of the DAA.

Even the DAA chairman Pádraig Ó Ríordáin can see that this should be done.

Earlier this month, he told the Oireachtas transport committee that Cork’ disadvantage, pointing out that, during the separation of Shannon Airport from the DAA, it had €100m in debts written and assets transferred at a knockdown rate.

This freed up Shannon to give deals to airlines like Ryanair that Cork cannot match.

Kerry Airport enjoys direct State subsidy of certain airlines flying on the basis of a public service obligation contract. We begrudge neither of these enterprises their good fortune.

This is not just about an airport and it is not just about Cork. It is about protecting the South West - one of the most concentrated areas of job and wealth creation in Ireland.

Cork and its environs is the location of the country’s pharmaceutical industry, one of Ireland’s most important IT hubs, home to the country’s only oil refinery and produces 25% of Ireland’s energy yet uses only 13%.

The South West is the gem of Irish tourism, which generates almost 250,000 jobs and revenue of more than €5 billion annually. Despite this, Cork Airport passenger figures continue to fall, down 5.1% in passenger numbers last year alone.

All we ask - all we demand - is that Cork Airport be given fair treatment. To do so would not only be commonsense, but would also make good business sense.

READ MORE: What TDs want for Cork Airport

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