There was positive news for the tourism industry in Mayo this week after Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar announced that the Government will continue to provide funding for Ireland West Airport Knock for 2011 and beyond. IWAK will be one of the four regional airports — along with Donegal, Kerry and Waterford— to be funded in 2012.
Donal Healy, sales and marketing manager with IWAK, told the Mayo Advertiser that the management of the airport welcomes “this good news” and acknowledges the Government’s support of this “major” airport’s “critical role”. Mr Healy said that the funding will allow this “key airport in the west coast of Ireland” to continue its development, with flights to destinations in Germany, France and Italy in the pipeline for the airport.
This guaranteed funding aptly coincides with the airport’s recent 25th anniversary. From its humble beginnings, the airport now serves 25 international destinations and hosts four of Europe’s biggest international carriers in Ryanair, Aer Lingus, flybe and bmibaby.
“We are now the fourth largest airport in the State and have 40 per cent share of the UK market from the west of Ireland,” commented airport chairman Liam Scollan. “Provided we continue to have that spirit there will be a good future and maybe one day we will be the second largest airport in the country.”
Airport managing director Joe Gilmore acknowledged the continued support of “the travelling public who have used the airport over the past 25 years and will continue to use it as the airport expands its catchment area and further develops its route network into Mainland Europe and the US”.
Junior Minister Michael Ring welcomed the announcement. “This is a vital piece of infrastructure for the region and with this commitment from the Government hopefully the airport will continue to thrive,” the Minister said.
Mayo Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony, who recently led a delegation from the airport to meet Minister Varadkar, has also welcomed the announcement: “This decision is a vote of confidence in our airport. Given that IWAK is jet capable, has the best connectivity of any regional airport, and significantly greater numbers of passengers, it make clear sense to support the future development of Knock airport.”
During his meeting with Minister Varadkar, the TD said that he was “impressed with the plans that the board and the CEO of the airport have for the future development in the airport. I am convinced that they can, in conjunction with the Minister, deliver on this potential.”
The Government will provide a total of €5.9 million in additional funding to regional airports for 2011. This €5.9 million comes on top of the €13.4 million already allocated to regional airports for this year. Funding for Galway and Sligo regional airports will cease in 2012.