THE CHAMBERS of Commerce in Limerick, Ennis, Shannon and Galway have called on all stakeholders to come together to ensure that strategic route connectivity is put in place, following the announcement that Ryanair will close its base at Shannon Airport this winter.
While welcoming the Government’s €10m investment into Shannon and Cork airports, the chambers have said that more needs to be done. They said that further grants will be required for the operational losses.
“The announcement by Ryanair is a further blow to Shannon Airport. Ryanair is a hugely important airline partner for Shannon and the reduction of services for the Winter season will mean further losses for the airport and its parent company Shannon Group. The fear also exists that once removed, these and other discontinued services may not all return.
“We have long-since called for greater fairness in the allocation of capital funding to airports so this move is to be welcomed. We look forward to seeing Shannon Airport being approved for the Regional Airports Programme to ensure long term funding for capital projects.”
The chambers called for a focus on resetting air access to Ireland.
"We urge the Minister to use this time to engage with airlines and devise plans for strategic route development into regional airports and, in tandem, to align national aviation policy with goals of project Ireland 2040."
They said that a focus needs to be made on a rapid testing system "so that they are primed to respond immediately to any future changes in the EU Traffic Light System.
"We must use this time productively. We call on the Government to ensure that our airports are resourced and strategic routes identified so that regional economies are poised to move quickly towards recovery.”
They cited independent analysis that shows Shannon Airport had been supporting in region of 46,000 jobs across the region, contributing €3.6bn to the economy every year.
Shannon and Cork airport became a major talking point in Dail Eireann this Thursday, and concerns were raised by Limerick TDs Maurice Quinlivan and Kieran O'Donnell.
Deputy O'Donnell, Fine Gael, said that this is an issue "we are all united on", and asked Minister Ryan when the Government will be implementing the new "traffic light system", where does the Government stand on a rapid testing system at airports.
"We all accept that we are in a pandemic. However, it employs 140,000 people—the airline business—we are an island nation, we need connectivity, we have to think outside the box."
He also suggested the idea that the remit of Nphet should be broadened to bring in experts in relation to testing.
Maurice Quinlivan said that the Department of Social Protection must ensure that the staff are "assisted promptly" so they are not waiting weeks for payments.
Putting it to Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan in relation to €5m funding for Shannon Airport, he said: "Do you not realise it's far too little and far too late?"
Minister Ryan said that the move by Ryanair was "disappointing" but he said the move was not unexpected.
He said that the Government will aim to strike a balance between allowing international travel and protecting public health.