The PSO funding withdrawal for flights to Dublin from Ireland West Airport Knock this week, which will see the service cancelled from July 2011, show the Government has turned its back on the west, according to Mayo Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony.
“As usual, the Government has announced a decision on the back of a report, without any consultation with Opposition parties or the people who will be affected, and Minister Noel Dempsey has not announced any alternative or extra funding for the airport either, which is also recommended in the same report,” Dep O’Mahony said.
“Fine Gael was, and is, willing to engage in a constructive assessment of regional airports to achieve better value for money. Most people agree that the existing PSO structure for regional airports needs to be reformed, in order to incentivise airlines to increase passenger numbers, and to get a better return on investment. Instead of doing this, the Minister has decided to keep the current PSO levy in place in Kerry and Donegal, while axing funding for Ireland West Airport Knock and other regional airports.
“Minister Dempsey’s decision makes a mockery of every Government pledge to protect jobs, transport links, and develop local economies. Knock has played a crucial role in local and regional development and deserves to be rewarded, not cut.”
Independent Mayo Labour candidate Dr Jerry Cowley, said it was “laughable” to claim the PSO was being cut because of improvements in alternative transport modes to and from Dublin by road and rail, and pointed out that the PSO being withdrawn from Sligo and Galway Airport flights to Dublin will lead to even more serious repercussions for those airports.
“However, I am delighted with the strong endorsement given to Ireland West Knock Airport in the report as standing out from the other regional airports for having good air services connectivity in their own right,” he added. “They have jet runway capacity, which means they can attract more airlines and serve more routes than the other regional airports.
“I am particularly heartened by the recommendation in the report’s conclusion that ‘Exchequer support for regional airports in Connacht should be focused on Ireland West Knock Airport, which [the report says] can adequately serve both Galway and Sligo with a greater range of services than [that] offered by Galway or Sligo Airports.
“This focus on Ireland West Knock Airport should also increase Knock’s critical mass and enhance its finances, according to the report. Galway city will also have the benefit of improving journey times to Shannon Airport,” he said.