Knock Airport must be developed as part of wider strategic plan for the West - Carthy
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that the Irish Government need to adopt a policy of investment and expansion for the Ireland West Airport in Knock, Co. Mayo. Carthy, who was speaking following a meeting of Sinn Féin representatives with senior management at Ireland West airport last Friday, said the proposal by the European Commission to extend the General Block Exemption (GBER) of states aid to airports must be utilised and expanded by the Irish Government to develop the Knock facility to the benefit of the entire west region.
Matt Carthy said:
“Last Friday I visited Ireland West Airport with Councillor Gerry Murray and Senator Rose Conway Walsh where we held a very productive meeting with senior management including Managing Director Joe Gilmore and the airport's legal officer Brendan Flanagan.
“We discussed the decision of the European Commission to extend the General Block Exemption (GBER) of states aid to smaller airports.
“While this is a welcome development considering Ireland’s peripheral location, it does not go far enough in that while the Commission has proposed an exemption on state aid to airports with a threshold of less than 3 million passengers it maintains an upper limit of 75% for state investment for capital works. Effectively this means that much of the necessary infrastructural works required to allow Knock airport to expand will not happen.
“Around 750,000 passengers travel through Knock Airport a year and, while this figure is growing, it is clear that there remains huge scope for development. 87% of air travel in the state is via Dublin airport, another example of successive governments failing to implement effective regional strategies.
“Two things are required to ensure that Ireland West Airport can play a part in the wider development of entire western region. Firstly the government must secure a derogation to the upper limits of capital investment in the airport and, secondly, the government must actually provide the necessary funding to carry out the infrastructural developments.
“The case for a derogation is itself strengthened by the huge challenges that Brexit presents. The vast majority of air passengers using Ireland West airport are travelling to and from Britain, and the airport itself is of major strategic importance in developing an Irish response to the wider challenges that Brexit brings.
“The airport at Knock should form a central part of a comprehensive wider strategic plan for the West. In the first instance there is a need for the government to engage in such a plan. Bizarrely, Minister Shane Ross hasn’t even visited Ireland West airport since his appointment as Minister despite several invites being issued.
“For our part Sinn Féin will continue to work at EU, national and local level to ensure that Knock airport becomes part of a strategic plan for the West of Ireland, is central to maintaining Irish air access post-Brexit and that the issue becomes a priority for the Irish Government.”