THE importance of Shannon Airport for Clare was stressed in the Dáil last week, with calls for it to be helped through the Covid-19 crisis.
“Shannon Airport is the driving force in Clare and the Mid-West Region. At this time of crisis, it has been deemed essential and has accepted many cargo flights of personal protection equipment, PPE.
“When the crisis is over, there will be an acute need for the Department to provide the airport with a capital expenditure fund,” said Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe.
“For too long, the airport has had to self-finance all major projects, including a recent €15 million upgrade of the runway.
“All such outlays seriously eat into the airport’s financial resources meaning that it has very little funding left over for marketing the airport, attracting new routes and retaining existing routes. There is urgent action needed in that regard.
“The funding needs to be ring-fenced for the airport to safeguard it in the future. When the State seeks to reboot its economy, the Minister will be reliant on Shannon Airport in the West and Mid-West,” the Meelick man added.
In her first speech to the Dáil, Clare’s Sinn Féin TD Violet Anne Wynne said, “I also highlight the needs of Shannon Airport which, as we all know, is a vital asset to County Clare and the mid-west region.
“The Sinn Féin team in the Mid-West recently met the CEO of Shannon Airport to convey our party’s support in bringing forward solutions to help Shannon as we emerge from the Covid-19 shutdown.
“Unsurprisingly, given the total shutdown of international and tourism as a whole on this island, the challenges the airport faces are significant both financially and logistically.
“There is much concern about the future of Shannon Airport, in light of its known struggles, which predate the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We need to protect it and to grow passenger numbers to ensure it can continue to operate successfully in a post-Covid world.
“What financial supports will be put in place to ensure the doors remain open, that flights continue and that, ultimately, jobs are protected?”
Caretaker Minister for Transport Shane Ross stressed the importance of aviation to the country and said supports have been made available to staff temporarily laid off.
“Owing to its location, Ireland is highly dependent on air connectivity, more so than most EU member states. It is the lifeblood of our tourism sector and it is critical for our economy overall.
“In recent months, passenger numbers have fallen by up to 99% and forward bookings have collapsed. The Government is working hard to protect air connectivity for the future.
“Many of our airports have taken difficult decisions to temporarily lay off staff to help constrain escalating losses. These staff can, and are, availing of the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment.
“Both the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, and Shannon Group are availing of support under the Government’s Covid-19 temporary wage subsidy scheme.
“Our State airports continue to facilitate airline services for passengers, cargo operators and aviation business based at the airports.
“Notwithstanding the challenges facing the aviation sector, I acknowledge the support it has provided during the pandemic, particularly the important role that Aer Lingus, the Irish aircraft leasing sector and other airlines are playing in securing personal protective equipment, PPE, and essential medical supplies,” Minister Ross stated.