THE Government’s newly published plan for dealing with Covid-19, Resilience and Recovery, had relatively little to say about aviation, and no measure that will bring immediate comfort to Shannon, which is facing the potential loss of Ryanair services for the winter, along with its Aer Lingus transatlantic services.
Essentially it proposes that Ireland apply the principles of a European Commission regime to have a common approach to travel within the EU. “It is proposed that Ireland broadly support the European Commission proposals and should continue to engage with Member States and the Commission to develop a regime that is consistent with public health requirements, cognisant of public of resources and capacity, while supportive of our need to support air transport,” it states.
Clare TD Michael McNamara was far from pleased with what was set out. “It’s entirely vague and unsatisfactory. It’s almost as if things are going fine and we don’t really need to address this, when, in fact, our aviation sector is on the verge of collapsing.”
He says that there is little clarity about what is coming and what has been done around travel to date has been illogical. “The only thing is that there is a proposal to accepting this European system when its up and running in October, but it’s not clear. Are we definitely going to move towards it and what are we going to do in the meantime? We are now stopping people from going to countries with a lower rate of detected cases than Ireland and we stopped people going abroad all summer, every other country let them.
“Stopping people going to countries with a lower rate of detected cases than Ireland makes no sense, it’s irrational.”
If Ryanair does close its Shannon base this winter, there could be a situation where no passenger traffic comes in or out, a real disaster for Clare, and one that Deputy McNamara says could be coming. “It’s a distinct possibility, yeah. We’ve heard a lot of stuff from mid-west politicians that this was going to happen, that was going to happen, they were confident of this and they were confident of that. They were phoning the Taoiseach more than they were phoning their wives and all of this nonsense. There’s no sign of that now. It’s time for them to put up or shut up, either they can influence Government policy or they can’t.”
While aviation is more important to Ireland than most countries, the independent TD feels the Government have done more to thwart the sector than to help it, as it faces an existential crisis. “Aviation plays a larger role in our economy than any other country in Europe. We’re a country that has done nothing to help the aviation sector and have a Government that has done most to shut down aviation. If we were able to point to a success, if we could say look at the Austrians or Germans or Italians and say look at how much better our figures are, but in fact our incidences are higher than all of those countries.”
Shannon Group issued a statement welcoming the plan and a spokesperson said, “While we are still assessing the implications for Shannon Airport, any steps that help to get aviation recovery off the ground in a safe manner that doesn’t compromise public health is very welcome.”
However, the spokesperson also stressed that aviation will need support. “We know that aviation will be one of the last sectors of the economy to recover with some analysts predicting that it will be 2024 before we rebuild traffic to 2019 levels. Given this it is imperative that the Aviation Recovery Taskforce recommendations are implemented urgently, and that a stimulus package of supports for regional airports is put in place to help the recovery of the tourism sector and support FDI and indigenous companies based along the west coast who need vital air connectivity to do business.”
Not unexpectedly, Ryanair denounced the Government plan in colourful language. ““Ryanair today (Tues 15 Sep) condemns the Covid travel announcement as more delay and indecision from Micheál Martin’s Government and NPHET. “We need Ireland’s Green List updated today and to include all lower Covid case EU countries including Germany, Sweden and Poland. Irish aviation and tourism cannot delay another week or month (to October 13) while Micheál Martin dithers and delays or while NPHET mismanages Ireland’s test and tracing system. Irish aviation and jobs are being sacrificed to cover up NPHET’s failure to keep our Covid rate as low as Germany and Italy, both of whom have allowed intra EU air travel since July 1 while NPHET has kept Ireland locked up like North Korea.”