Owen Ryan reports on a feisty exchange between Deputy Michael McNamara and An Taoiseach Michéal Martin
THE Taoiseach is destroying his own legacy and Shannon Airport, Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara warned in the Dáil this week, shortly after the Aer Lingus decision to close its Shannon cabin crew base became known.
The Scariff man vehemently criticised the Government’s approach to aviation.
“When are we going to have a debate on what the State’s aviation policy is? When can we even find out what it is?
“There are announcements from the Tánaiste every day that contradict each other. There are announcements from all the members of the Taoiseach’s Cabinet that contradict each other constantly.
“We do not have an aviation policy or aviation recovery plan. We need one before it is too late. It is already too late for my constituency. The Taoiseach’s is next.
“He might not care much about the rest of the country but if he cares about his own legacy…He talks about Fianna Fáil. One thing Fianna Fáil built was Shannon Airport but the Taoiseach is going to take it down around him.”
Responding, the Taoiseach denied the charge that the State doesn’t have a policy.
“We do and the Government will bring forward an approach to the travel issue that will be consistent with the European digital green certificate framework that the Commission, in parallel with the Parliament and the Council, has been working on.
“We will follow through on that. We have no issue with debating that in the House. The Government will be finalising its proposals on that next week in terms of the broader travel issue.
“The Government has supported airports and airlines through various instruments and mechanisms, but the greatest damage to travel and tourism and to aviation has been the virus. That is unfortunately the reality.”
The Aer Lingus announcement will cast serious doubts over the retention of early morning and late evening flights to Heathrow which are essential to business connectivity. pic.twitter.com/vOeYt9Yr8f
— Michael McNamara TD (@MlMcNamaraTD) May 19, 2021
Later in the debate Mr McNamara again slammed the Irish response to aviation during the pandemic.
“I agree with the Taoiseach that the pandemic has placed unprecedented pressure on the aviation sector. That is why many other European Governments have taken an equity shareholding in airlines. The Government declined to do so. It is why many of them have introduced antigen testing.
“The Government has obtained a report on it but declined to do so. It is why no other country in Europe has introduced mandatory hotel quarantining for European citizens.”
He added, “What future does the Taoiseach offer the people of Clare in terms of connectivity with Aer Lingus and the workers of Aer Lingus today?
“What is he now going to do about aviation in this country? Why are we so out of synch with the rest of the world?”
Attempting to respond, the Taoiseach began by saying “First, we are not out of synch with the rest of the world.”
However at this point a clearly irate Deputy McNamara roared “Yes, we are. Do not mislead the House.”
He added, “For God’s sake Taoiseach, tell the truth at least.”
When the Taoiseach responded, he said, “Through the Chair, there were hardly four words out of my mouth and there was an unacceptable intervention.
“The bottom line is that we have supported aviation and we want to support aviation. We have supported the airlines and we want to continue to support the airlines. It is very sad and difficult news for those workers being laid off today.”