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Mid-West TD criticised for ‘extraordinary comments’ on aviation

A LIMERICK TD who argued against supports for aviation during discussion of the Finance Bill 2021 has been severely criticised, given the crisis facing Shannon Airport, writes Owen Ryan.

During the course of the debate Deputy Richard O’Donoghue said that “Significant incentives have been given to the aviation industry, which is carbon exempt.”

He added that the sector ” enjoys a hefty €634 million tax break via exemptions relating to jet fuel. Airlines receive €2.4 billion through exemptions from excise duty, carbon tax and the National Oil Reserve Agency levy on fuel for commercial and international flights.”

He said that “It would take a year for one acre of forestry to absorb the CO2 emissions produced by a one-way flight from Dublin to New York.”

He also said that in 2019 the airline industry brought 38 million passenger through Irish airports, working out at half a tonne of carbon per passenger each way.

Deputy O’Donoghue said that farmers in contrast are set to be squeezed, while aviation is indulged.

“Farmers care about the environment as much as any other sector does. They have been told that their emissions account for 63% of the total. Climate justice is about fair treatment of all people and freedom from discrimination in the creation of policy.

“The blanket restrictions disproportionately affect young farmers by limiting their ability to enter the sector. They particularly affect those who have recently heavily invested in their business.

“The Irish Farmers’ Journal commissioned a report that indicates the absolute maximum by which they can reduce is 18%. They need new technologies and support. They need assurances regarding the €150 million in carbon tax that was promised by the Government. They are willing to play their part in the solution.

“I mentioned that the airline industry gets €634 million and it is exempt. Can the Minister be honest with farmers and tell them the national herd has to be culled? Let us be honest. Worldwide, 158,000 people died yesterday and 380,000 were born. How is the increasing population going to be fed if we keep reducing food production? Prices will escalate and poorer countries will suffer.”

Replying, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said his comments were against the interests of the Mid West.
“Deputy O’Donoghue’s comments on aviation were perhaps the most extraordinary I have heard made by a Deputy from Limerick and the mid-west make in some time.

“I hope those who work in Shannon Airport and who depend on a living from aviation in his county and region, and who work in tourism who are eager to see the return of international tourists to our shores and who recognise the value of aviation in doing that, heard Deputy O’Donoghue’s comments this evening.

“The comments he made about aviation and airlines pertain to the industry and the sector – in Shannon Airport and other airports – that we want to rebuild because they are employers, they add value to our economy, they bring tourists into our country, and they generate the access that has been at the heart of our country being able to grow in recent years. In particular, few parts of the country understand that more than the mid-west. I hope people there listened carefully to what the Deputy said in this debate.”

Speaking afterwards Clare-based Senator Martin Conway said, “We know the Deputy is opposed to increases in carbon tax, but to make the argument that the aviation sector should not receive certain supports is quite simply extraordinary given that Shannon Airport is in his own back yard.”

He said that supporting Shannon in the wake of Covid-19 is of huge importance. “As Deputy O’Donoghue should know, Shannon Airport is a key driver of business and economic development in the

Mid-West region, with many people relying on it for regional and international connectivity, as well as for the thousands of jobs that it provides and supports.

“Shannon Airport and the subsidiary industry is of critical importance to all in Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, Kerry, Galway and along the West coast. It is astonishing that an independent TD is against State supports for the airport.

“It is essential that Shannon Airport, and indeed other airports, are well positioned to contribute to the overall recovery when business and tourism return to pre-pandemic levels.

“All sectors must play their part in the fight against climate change and those actions will be outlined in the Climate Action Plan, which is more ambitious than any plan that’s gone before it.

“Indeed, Deputy O’Donoghue would do well to educate himself on climate policy before pitting the aviation sector against other sectors, particularly when the livelihoods of many of his constituents are dependent on it.”

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