Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has pleaded with the Government and Department of Transport to ‘not turn its back on Ireland West Airport Knock’ during this time of unprecedented turmoil in the aviation industry.
Deputy Calleary made his plea, having raised the issue of job losses at the airport during a Topical Issues debate in Dáil Éireann on Tuesday night last.
He said: "We cannot turn our back on Ireland West Airport and equally we cannot stick our heads in the sand and believe that everything will be ok. It is now time for the Government to regain the spirit of 1986 when Monsignor Horan’s dream became a reality with the opening of the airport.
"At that time they said it could not be done, well it was done, and it is now time for Government to say it can be done again and confirm that it will be done in 2020, with funding provided to sustain the economic viability of the airport.
"The airport is facing unprecedented losses as a result of Covid-19. Passengers number at best will reach 170,000 compared to 807,000 in 2019. Coupled with loss of revenue from carparking and from retail, this means that the Regional Airports Programme that has served Knock, Donegal and Kerry airports well in the past, is not fit for purpose in 2020.
"Ryanair has now suspended its winter services bar seven routes and staff at the airport have been laid off or have been placed on short-time – we now need an urgent special allocation for 2020 to sustain cashflow and allow the management to prepare for 2021.”
Deputy Calleary continued: "€21.3 million was set aside for Regional Airports in last week’s Budget but we need to know how much will be allocated immediately to Ireland West Airport Knock, how much will be made available straightaway to offset operational expenses. Cork and Shannon airports were allocated once-off payments of €10 million and I am now demanding a level playing pitch for Knock.
"The airport is the jewel in the crown of Mayo – its importance to the region goes far beyond economic benefits, it transcends social benefits too. An immediate cash injection is required and I am determined to invoke the spirit of Monsignor Horan to ensure that it is received."