Government still shirking its commitment to the west of Ireland
Responding to media reports on the 26 counties regional airport network Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty said today's analysis in the press "is a serious and ongoing cause for concern."
The Donegal senator added:
"It is one year on since Aer Lingus withdrew its Heathrow route from Shannon and the effects are being sharply felt with a 16% decrease in passengers to London since the move. In addition the overall passenger traffic through the airport has dropped by 9% in the first six months of this year.
"Shannon Airport is now in the precarious situation of relying on Ryanair for 60% of its passengers. In the fiscal reality of airlines deciding service levels of airports, not the airport operators themselves, this leaves the Shannon Airports future uncertain unless it is properly recognised by the state as a vital element of public infrastructure. The Irish government has already failed the people by allowing the states national carrier be privatised and again when it refused to use its large shareholding in Aer Lingus to maintain the company's operations out of Shannon.
"Last years debate surrounding the withdrawal of Aer Lingus from Shannon importantly centred on connectivity for the west and urgent need for balanced regional development throughout the state. Despite this widespread debate government has done little in the interim to address the economic and social needs of the west of Ireland.
"In an effort to constructively progress this debate in the Oireachtas to a point of action I secured the agreement of the Oireachtas Committee on Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to complete a report on what is required to develop the counties along the west coast of Ireland, in economic and social terms. This report will identify infrastructure and public service deficiencies; the impediments to job creation; potential sectors for development and initiatives and interventions required to revitalise the region. It is one element of Sinn Féin's 'West Awake Campaign' for the regeneration of the west of Ireland.
"Throughout the month of August I will join Sinn Féin representatives in a widespread consultation with relevant groups as part of the work of the report. The party is also seeking submissions from all interested groups and individuals. In September Sinn Féin Kerry TD Martin Ferris and I will meet a number of national organisations and government departments before concluding the report for submission to the Oireachtas Committee In late November." ENDS