A five-year plan to revitalise Shannon Airport will be prioritised by Fine Gael in Government, party leader Enda Kenny has pledged.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Deputy Kenny said the main challenge for Shannon Airport is to dramatically reduce its cost base in order to pave the way for autonomy from the Dublin Airport Authority.
If elected to government, he promised Fine Gael would put forward a five-year plan to address cost of access, cost of running airports like Shannon and ways of increasing passenger and commercial traffic.
He also pledged that Fine Gael would abolish the €3 travel tax, reduced from €10 by the outgoing Government, if airlines come up with figures for extra passengers coming in to Ireland.
The party also supports the Lynx Cargo facility, which Deputy Kenny pointed out would help drive the development of the airport.
“There are serious challenges ahead for Cork and Shannon. As part of DAA, we believe Shannon should be autonomous, but to get to where they are autonomous, there is a difficult road ahead.
“To be autonomous you would like to think that Shannon Airport can start off that way. To do this, you have to look at the breakdown of costs, what costs are made up of,” he said. Asked if Fine Gael would reduce the supports to the regional airports, which could be spent in Shannon, he pointed out Shannon is an international airport in a different category.
“Airlines are always challenged and they always make their own decisions. Ryanair have been in a number of airports and they change from one location to another on a frequent basis on the basis on costs.
“I would like to come to a situation where as much traffic as possible can move through Shannon.
“I would be favourably disposed to big movements of people coming through Shannon, it helps jobs, the local economy and has huge spin-offs. I don’t speak for Ryanair and can’t direct them,” he said.
Fine Gael produced its own jobs taskforce before the Brosnan Report and contained a number of recommendations that Deputy Kenny would see as advantageous to the Mid-West. “Our Mid-West taskforce still stands, Shannon and Mid-West would benefit from freeing up of tax and red tape barriers for employers, incentives for taking on new employees and breaking down structures that haven’t worked,” he said.
Deputy Kenny declined to give a commitment to reverse the controversial withdrawal of 24-hour emergency services at Ennis hospital.
“Fine Gael are not in the business of reversing decisions in cases where facilities have been removed. We are in favour of not removing facilities unless you can demonstrate there is something better in its place, that is clearly not the case in Limerick hospital, with 14-hour delays in accident and emergency.
“Fine Gael remains committed to retention of acute medical facilities and suspension of removal of cardiac facilities,” he said.