“He has plenty of time for opening greenways but he’ll be opening a greenway on the runway of Knock Airport if he doesn’t get this sorted” - Cllr Damien Ryan
Members of Mayo County Council have demanded that An Taoiseach Enda Kenny meet with the board of Ireland West Airport Knock immediately and intervene to secure the future of the airport.
Yesterday’s Mayo County Council Budget meeting was delayed while councillors discussed Knock Airport’s future in light of the writing off by government of Shannon Airport’s €100 million debt.
Last Friday the board of the airport had a meeting with 24 councillors where the board discussed their fears for the future in light of the bailout of Shannon and the amount of state money going to that airport.
Cllr Al McDonnell (Fianna Fáil) told the meeting that he was ‘far more worried on the way home from that meeting than I was on the way to it’.
“The clear implication by the Minister for Transport (Leo Varadkar) in what he did with Shannon is to downgrade Knock. All we want is for Knock to be on an equal footing. This matter requires the most urgent intervention by the Taoiseach. He must meet with the board as quickly as possible,” he said.
Cllr Damien Ryan (FF) said the seriousness of the situation cannot be over-stated.
“This matter was discussed on December 14, about the need for a meeting with the Taoiseach, and we are still waiting. He has plenty of time for raising flags and opening greenways, and I’ve no problem with that but he’ll be opening a greenway on the runway of Knock Airport if he doesn’t get this sorted,” he said.
Cllr Richard Finn (Independent) said that all Knock Airport was looking for was equal status as other airports and said that Chairman of the airport, Liam Scollan, had sought a government investment of €75 million over five years.
Cllr Joe Mellett said a meeting would take place as ‘early as his (Enda Kenny’s) diary allows, which looks like January 20’.
Cllr Michael Holmes (Independent) said that was ‘too late’.
“I’m 40 years lobbying for infrastructure in the west from different groups and I’ve never seen something as serious as this. Knock Airport is on a life support machine, it is like a rural school that is down to just one teacher,” he said.
Cllr Gerry Ginty (Independent) said that part of the problem was Enda Kenny was afraid to be seen to interfere for anything affecting the west of Ireland.
“I believe Enda Kenny was out-manoeuvred, out-pushed and out-thought here. His biggest problem is that if he takes a stand for the west of Ireland, he leaves himself open to insinuations from the national media, like Michael Ring has with sports funding. Enda Kenny should forget about the national media and stand up for his own.
“All we want is a level playing field. Knock have been frugal with their spending and an airport like Shannon that acted recklessly gets rewarded with their debt being written off. Fine Gael members of this council should put it on the line and tell your party you will leave if the right steps aren’t taken,” said Cllr Ginty.
Cllr Annie Mae Reape (FF) said she was disappointed with Michael Ring, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
“Michael Ring said he wasn’t responsible, that it was Ministers Noonan and Varadkar. When he was in opposition he’d be on the radio about something like this,” she said.
County Manager Peter Hynes said the council were fully committed to the airport. He said they had spent €5.5 million on roads and water services around the airport in the last five years and were also sending an application for the designation of the region around the airport as a Strategic Development Zone to the Minister for the Environment.
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