Varadkar pledges swift action on Shannon Airport separation plan

THERE will be no undue delay in planning an independent future for Shannon Airport, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has pledged.

THERE will be no undue delay in planning an independent future for Shannon Airport, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has pledged.

Limerick Chamber last week criticised Government for having no set time-line for when it will act on the recommendations of the task forces and steering group set up to manage the separation of Shannon from the DAA and its merger with land assets held by Shannon Development.

And at the two-day business aviation convention at Dromoland Castle, where Minister Varadkar was a guest, this concern was also voiced by Joe Millar, executive chairman of Transaero Engineering Ireland, which has just commenced maintenance operations at Shannon.

Mr Millar welcomed the principle of merging the airport and parts of Shannon Development but said the delay in separating the airports - originally announced by Seamus Brennan in 2004 - had created a climate of uncertainty for business. Transaero had located in Shannon “not only the for skillsets here but the ability to develop our business”. That included not only developing maintenance business but the possibility that Transaero - Russia’s second biggest airline - might bring transit passengers through Shannon.

“Once you announce this there comes a certain period where there is uncertainty and that doesn’t help,” Mr Millar said.

Minister Varadkar replied that it had already been announced that there would be a report to Government by November but if elements could be agreed before then, he was keen to see action sooner. The plans would be implemented next year, the minister predicted.

Part of the ambition for Shannon is to create a tax-incentivised hub for aviation business on Shannon Development owned lands and Minister Varadkar wanted to see such measures in Michael Noonan’s next budget.

“I am really determined that we just get on with this,” Minister Varadkar said.

“The deadline that we have set for the task forces to report back to Government for a decision is November. That will then allow us, with all things going to plan, to include any tax measures for the airport in the December budget.”

“In many ways, sometimes civil servants, and I don’t mean this as a criticism of them, work on a five-year or a 20-year schedule. As a politician, you work on a tighter schedule. There will probably be a cabinet reshuffle in 2013 or 2014 and I hope to have this up and running and successful long before that. I’m very keen to drive this and make sure it happens as soon as possible and that there be no delays on the political side.”

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