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Government called on to act fast to secure Knock’s future

Government called on to act fast to secure Knock’s future

Anton McNulty

A week ahead of Enda Kenny’s much-anticipated meeting with the board of Knock Airport, the Government were called to act quickly and decisively in relation to providing major capital and subvention funding for the airport.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar are due to meet with the board of Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK) this Monday, January 28, to discuss the future of the airport. There had been several calls for the Taoiseach to meet with the board members after they revealed to councillors that they believe the airport will need €75 million over five years in state funding to remain viable.
Charlestown-based councillor Gerry Murray said that the airport was surviving on ‘a hand to mouth’ basis since its very foundation. He said the recent Shannon-Airport bail out is a real ‘game changer’ that poses a serious threat to Knock airport’s future viability.
“The Government bail out of Shannon could cost as much as €300 million. It includes writing off €100 million in debt, then add in the annual rent roll from Shannon Development which amounts to €10 million per annum.
“Nobody begrudges this lucrative package for Shannon Airport, but surely Knock airport is entitled to a similar investment, the Board of Knock airport and indeed the people of the region are simply asking for parity of esteem and equality. In that context, the Government must act quickly and decisively in announcing a similar package of measures for Ireland West Airport Knock,” he said.
The Sinn Féin councillor also criticised successive Fianna Fáil governments for being ‘loud in their praise of the airport’ but at the same time only investing €15 million over three successive governments.
“Over the last ten years we have witnessed a policy of discrimination by successive Fianna Fáil governments in terms of funding for Ireland West Airport. In the last ten years, Shannon Airport received €30 million towards the cost of air traffic control while Ireland West Airport received nothing. Over the same period, Shannon received €160 million from government, while Ireland West Airport Knock only received €15 million.
“But quite remarkably, over the same time frame and in the most adverse of circumstances, the Board of Ireland West Airport Knock managed to invest €16.5 million in the airport, largely derived from astute management of meagre resources,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil Senator  Marc MacSharry has lodged an official complaint with the European Commission over the Government’s measures, which he says give Shannon Airport an unfair advantage over Knock.
“I am a supporter of Shannon Airport and any initiatives that assists in its growth and performance. However, the particular measures announced by the Transport Minister Leo Varadkar will unfairly pitch Shannon Airport against Knock. Shannon stands to benefit from an estimated total investment of €300 million while Knock is left to fend for itself.”
He went on to say that despite the Government’s €160 million investment in Shannon Airport over a decade, ‘there has been a 63 per cent decline in passenger numbers over the last five years’. “In contrast, Knock Airport received €15 million over the same period and managed to increase its numbers by 20 per cent. Knock should not be penalised for its excellent performance and for managing its resources well,” he said.

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