SHANNON Airport will begin its new era “free of net debt”, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has pledged after confirming the airport is to be removed from DAA control.
In a radical shake-up announced this Wednesday, Shannon Development has effectively been dismantled, with some of the agency being merged with a new state-owned commercial company which will be responsible for running the airport and the Shannon Free Zone. Shannon Development’s enterprise and tourism functions are to be transferred to the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Failte Ireland.
Interests in the Mid-West have long called for autonomy for Shannon, where passenger numbers have halved inside five years, but only as long as it was granted independence free of debt.
And Minister Varadkar confirmed this Wednesday that the new holding company responsible for running the airport’s affairs was being established “free of net debt”.
Minister Vardakar commented that much of the €8 million losses recorded at Shannon last year arose from interest payments on its accumulated debts of around €100 million.
The plans arise from a report by Booz consultants which recommended Shannon’s separation from the DAA but also warned that the airport’s cost base was too high.
No detail has been announced of job losses or other specific restructuring measures which could affect either the airport or Shannon Development in the coming weeks and months.
But Minister Vardakar said that a steering group to oversee the transition would be appointed in “the next couple of weeks”.
Initial reaction in the region has been positive with Shannon Chamber and local tourism interests welcoming independence.
Former Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Diarmuid Scully, said that Limerick City Council had in March written to Minister Varadkar “asking that Shannon Airport be made independent of the Dublin Airport Authority, that Shannon be kept in state ownership, that the new airport be debt-free, that it be locally managed and that a mechanism be put in place for the long-term funding of Shannon”.
“Minister Varadkar has given us everything we asked for. This is a great day for Limerick, for Clare and for the Mid-West and Western regions of the country. It is up to us now to promote our airport, our city, our counties and our region.”
For more, see this weekend’s Limerick Leader.