County council to throw financial support behind airport

Mayo County Council this week agreed in principle to make a financial contribution to Ireland West Airport Knock, following a presentation by the airport’s managing director Joe Gilmore to the July meeting of the council.

The airport management are currently on a tour of seven local authorities in the region, speaking to councils to try and to them to give financial support to the airport to ensure its future and allow it to grow.

There was unanimous support from the councillors for the idea although the exact figure that the airport will require is not known at present, they were told. There were also hard hitting words from Fianna Fáil Cllr Al McDonnell who said: “When we met in January 2013 in an emergency meeting about the airport, I was confident that the new committee set up by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny would come up with a plan for the airport”. He went on to say: “I didn’t anticipate that you would be back here today begging for money and the Government would be able to find €100 million for Shannon Airport and they can’t find €8 million for Knock.”

Fine Gael whip Cllr Jarlath Munnelly said it was in everyone’s interest to support Knock airport and that the Government were making inroads on that. He also pointed out that he felt it was unfair to compare Shannon and Knock as Shannon was owned by the state unlike Knock, which was owned privately.

WDC chairman challenges finding of report

A suggestion that Shannon Airport should be prioritised for the awarding of Fifth Freedom Air rights and an assertion the Government are subsidising too many airports has been challenged by the Chairman of the Western Development Commission, Paddy McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness was commenting on a paper prepared on behalf of the Shannon Airport Marketing Consultative Committee (SAMCC ) by Professor Jim Deegan, Head of the Department of Economics and Director, National Centre for Tourism Policy Studies at the University of Limerick.

“The suggestion that singling out Shannon Airport for preferential treatment would assist in redressing the economic imbalance between Dublin and the remainder of the country is hard to understand. The exact opposite is the more likely outcome. We have seen how significant investment in road and rail network outside of the Western Region has resulted in most of counties Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and part of Roscommon and Galway being rated as ‘inaccessible’ because they are more than a two hour drive-time to any of the State airports as well as having poorer or non-existent rail services. These ‘inaccessible’ areas include the National Spatial Strategy gateway of Sligo and the twinned hubs of Castlebar and Ballina, which are key urban centres in the West/North West. Ireland West Airport Knock is Ireland’s fourth largest international airport. It is the only airport in the Border, Midlands and Western Region with the capacity to handle transatlantic aircraft, and is accessible to the gateways of Sligo and Galway” said McGuinness.

“What is needed is a balanced approach to serving the international inbound tourist needs of the wider region, especially when discussing state supports. The Western Development Commission’s remit includes Clare and, therefore, welcomes the fact that Shannon Airport has in recent years been the beneficiary of considerable state support. The Commission believes that the disadvantage being endured by other parts of the West and North West needs to be rectified through similar support” continued McGuinness.

Furthermore regarding the issue of Fifth Freedom air traffic rights, Mc Guinness welcomes the recognition by the Minster and the Department of Transport that all the international airports, each serving different geographic catchments, should be on a level playing field when trying to attract new business to the region and indeed to the country.

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