Tuesday 11 December 2012
“I welcome the debate, to which I wish to bring a different perspective by referring to Cork Airport which has not been mentioned by other Deputies. In the year to date 2.25 million passengers have passed through Cork Airport and that figure is expected to reach 2.4 million by year end, which shows that Cork Airport is the hub and gateway to the south. Seventeen new routes have been introduced at Cork Airport in the past two years, although the airport has also lost others and staff have expressed concerns about the future direction of the airport. Concerns have also been expressed about the loss of the slots at Gatwick Airport. The importance and potential of Cork Airport cannot be underestimated and I know the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Alan Kelly, as a Tipperary man, understands its strategic importance. Cork Airport is a hub and a gateway and acts as a counterbalance to Dublin Airport and Shannon Airport. It is important, notwithstanding the interests of Deputies on all sides, that we recognise that Cork is the capital of the south. It has a large metropolitan area and is the location of a large proportion of the farming industry. It is only two and half hours by road from Dublin and is even closer to places such as Portlaoise, Tipperary, Waterford and Kerry. The importance of Cork Airport, therefore, must be acknowledged.
Deputies have spoken about the importance of aviation services. Cork has lost its ferry link with England. The Gathering is expected to drive local economies next year. The issue of transatlantic traffic at Cork Airport has been tinkered with for a long time and we know what happens when tinkering takes place. We saw what two previous Ministers for Transport, the late Seamus Brennan and Martin Cullen, did when they tinkered with aviation policy. We now have a Minister and a Minister of State who are prepared to take decisions. In saying this, however, it is important that the Booz report and the report of Ernst & Young on Cork Airport are placed in the public domain. It is imperative that there is a counterfoil for Dublin Airport in terms of aviation policy and Cork Airport is that counterfoil.
When the Booz report was commissioned, I held a special one day clinic to discuss the airport. I also made a submission to the consultants who were commissioned to prepare the report. Everybody who spoke to me highlighted the necessity of developing Cork Airport, the importance of short haul flights and new investment and the need to give the airport autonomy within the DAA. I welcome the Booz report and the decision by the Government to retain Cork Airport within the DAA but it is important that it is given autonomy in deciding its future despite the huge debts that are crippling it, thanks in the main to the party opposite. That same party must also answer for crippling our country.
For Cork Airport to reach its potential, it needs to have space within the DAA umbrella. The plans set out by the Government will help that to become a reality but bold and difficult decisions will be required in regard to the DAA and how it does its business. Deputy O’Donnell spoke about terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. He is correct that we must look beyond Dublin. I look forward to the expansion of Cork Airport and the introduction of additional routes. I wish the new chief executive, Mr. McCarthy, well in his new role and hope that the Government will work with him in developing the airport.”