Crunch meetings for harbour and airport as Minister comes to town

Management at Galway Airport and Galway Harbour Company are confident and positive about their chances of garnering the support of new Transport Minister, Leo Varadkar, during his visit to the city tomorrow.

Minister Varadkar, who will be in Galway tomorrow to officially launch National Bike Week, will also be holding crucial meetings, first with the Galway Harbour Company in relation to its Port Development Plan, and then later with Galway Airport which will be seeking to ascertain the new Government’s attitude to funding and continued support.

It is understood that a meeting with the minister take place at the Galway Harbour Company offices just after midday tomorrow. According to CEO Éamon Bradshaw the “main thrust” of the meeting will be in relation to the port redevelopment proposal as well as the lodgement of planning permission with An Bord Pleanala due to take place in July. Mr Bradshaw told the Advertiser yesterday that the Galway Harbour Company were confident of securing the Minister’s essential support adding that the recently announced jobs initiative, which seeks to boost tourism and jobs, added to the port redevelopment’s chances.

“The new port will boost the cruise line business in a huge way, there is also the marine and leisure end of the business, we have the Volvo race coming next year, and there is the development of the sports centre for sea-based pursuits. We cover right across the transport department. We have met with the minister already, he is very supportive, and I believe it will be a positive meeting.”

Regarding the Galway Harbour Company seeking part-finance for the €50 million phase one of the redevelopment of the docks Mr Bradshaw said the harbour company’s primary concern would be to get the “actual support of the ministry” and then the funding, if the Transport Department was prepared to give it.

“There is the number of jobs in the tourist sector that will be substantial, new businesses created, and the extension of the Galway Harbour Enterprise Park - that’s how we will sell the project to the minister. The Government funding aspect is not essential, there are other options we can fall back on. The current port policy is that there is to be no capital given from the department for projects, we’re hoping the new government might have a different view.

“It’s full steam ahead. We believe passionately in what we are proposing, we believe we will get the support for a project which will lead to significant job creation,” said Mr Bradshaw.

The meeting with Galway Airport is due to take place at around 5.15pm tomorrow and managing director Joe Walsh is also maintaining a positive attitude with the intention to showcase the airport’s proven vital role in boosting the local economy and in job creation.

“It will be the first opportunity to meet with the minister, we will be outlining the important role of the airport for the city, the county, and the region in terms of jobs and international air access. The cabinet decision in February on the operational subvention was welcomed, however, there was much disappointment with the decision by the previous government to withdraw the PSO funding. But we will continue to progress as the airport plays an important role and clearly helps Galway in attracting inward investment.

“The meeting will be a great opportunity to showcase what we do, how we are an important part of what makes Galway attractive and successful,” said Mr Walsh who added that the new Government has already shown in its jobs initiative how the tourism sector and jobs creation is integral to future growth of the economy and that Galway Airport has a part to play in this.

Regarding the proposal to abolish air travel tax Mr Walsh said that “any tax on air travel is an additional cost on the passenger. Reducing these costs gives more choice in making a decision to travel. How significant this announcement will be remains to be seen, but a reduction in air travel tax can only be a positive thing”.


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