22 October 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth
Fianna Fáil Finance Spokesperson Michael McGrath (based in Carrigaline, Co Cork) has called for the new ‘Connectivity Fund’ being established from the proceeds of the sale of Aer Lingus to ensure that Cork Airport is put in a strong competitive position.
The Dáil this week approved the setting up of the new fund under the management of the NTMA. It will operate on a commercial basis, providing support for investment projects with a connectivity theme, such as the development of ports or airports, including access to these transport assets.
Deputy McGrath commented, “There were significant doubts expressed about the sale of Aer Lingus, in particular the Government claim to have extracted a “legally binding” connectivity commitment. It remains to be seen if these actually stand up in practice, particularly if the IAG group generally runs into future difficulties. I remain deeply concerned about IAG’s future intentions regarding the Cork-Heathrow connection.
“However, now that the Aer Lingus sale has been completed, it is imperative that the €335m funds raised are put to the best possible use and not simply frittered away. The regional airport network in particular in very important to balanced economic development. The sheer dominance of Dublin airport has resulted in the cannibalising of services at both Cork and Shannon. I believe the Fund should be deployed as strategically as possible to give Cork and other airports a fighting chance of competing commercially. This will enhance the ability to improve their range of services attract and retain industry throughout the country.
“There are a number of ways in which this could be done including improving transport links to the airport and enhancing ancillary services. Improving the commercial attractiveness of the airport business park in the provision of services such as aircraft maintenance and financial services can ultimately lead to more business and underpin the commercial viability of the airport,” concluded Deputy McGrath.