The Galway City Council is to join up with six other local authorities in examining an investment opportunity in Ireland West Airport Knock in the hopes that increased passenger numbers will lead to further development of business and tourism throughout the county.
In his presentation at City Hall on Monday, CEO of Ireland West Airport Knock, Joe Gilmore, explained how the airport, which is owned by a public trust, is currently facing a debt of €9 million and is looking to enter into a partnership deal with Galway City Council as well as six other councils - Galway County, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo, and Donegal - to help raise money for its future development. He told councillors tthe airport was seeking approval “only in principal” and there would be further discussions of possible investment.
After some councillors urged caution, a motion was passed unanimously calling for the council to join with its sister local authorities in examining the investment opportunity.
“We are looking for a future partnership model that will help provide additional tourism and employment,” said Mr Gilmore, before revealing that as Ireland’s fourth largest international airport, Knock serves a catchment of 1.2 million people and enjoyed a turnover of €14 million in 2013. The airport not only employed 150 staff and supported 900 jobs in the wider region, but also helped to create 900,000 tourism bed nights and a regional tourism spend of €111 million. There were 665,000 passengers last year ,but this year it is predicted that the figure will exceed 700,000. The investment will help with the airport’s plans to double passenger numbers to 1.3 million by 2023 which, according to Mr Gilmore, will be of significant benefit to Galway city and county.
One of the first to voice support was Cllr Cathal O’Conchúir (SF ) who urged the council to “continue to make a strong case for the Government to support growth and development of the airport”, adding that “Galway will ultimately benefit”.
Proposing the motion, Cllr Peter Keane (FF ) said “international connectivity is vitally important”, and that it was critical investment was made in both Ireland West Airport Knock and Shannon Airport so that they could reach their full potential.
Referring to the problems experienced by Galway Airport, Cllr Catherine Connolly (Ind ) warned that further information would be needed.
Mr Gilmore said 90 per cent of the money would come from the Department of Transport and the exchequer through the Regional Airports Programme. The money would be used for the expansion of parking stands, particularly for larger aircraft, to allow the airport not only to expand more into the European market, but also to provide US services.