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Airport doomsday fears resurface

Sunday, 16th November, 2014 10:02am
Airport doomsday fears resurface


THE plight of Cork Airport is again news. Business ‘leaders’ want Kenny to take action on the airport’s dire financial situation while local politicians, fearful that doomsday might be on the cards, also have begun lobbying the government.

At issue is the huge debt imposed on Cork by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA). Another serious bone of contention is the unwillingness of the current FG-Labour coalition to grant Cork debt-free independence from the DAA, a position first adopted by Fianna Fáil.

Particularly galling for Leesiders is the fact that the Kenny government allowed Shannon Airport to go its own way and that the result has been a ringing success – so much so that commentators claim the midwest facility has already robbed Cork of up to 160,000 passengers. Yet, despite the sense of impending disaster in the real capital, the Kenny government isn’t listening to Leeside cries for help.

To its credit, the Cork Chamber (of Commerce) says it intends to ‘spearhead a new campaign’ to save the airport, but it’s a very low-key campaign. Few people know of its existence, or that the city’s foremost movers and shakers organised it.

Indeed, an astute commentator in the ‘Cork Arms’ got it in one when she described prior Chamber lobbying campaigns as similar to an annual mountain climb in the Himalayas where pilgrims seek advice from the High Priest of Uselessness. In other words, what she was getting at was that Chamber campaigns in the past were ineffective, unproductive and of no practical advantage!

Rather too polite

Not helping either is the rather polite, woolly language that the Chamber uses to describe the seriousness of the airport situation. As Chamber president Gillian Keating put it, the government’s attitude towards Cork Airport was ‘tepid’ but in relation to Dublin and Shannon airports the government’s attitude was very ‘strong’!

Yet, the Chamber and its president should be congratulated for not allowing Kenny and crew entirely off the hook and, indeed, no one can doubt the sincerity of their call for ‘urgent government action to halt route losses and the alarming slide in passenger numbers’.

Problem is, Kenny, Burton and the lads don’t give a tinkers! They’re not listening, and Chamber criticism runs like water off Blueshirt backs. That’s not to say the politicos (including a handful of government ones) haven’t got in on the action.

For instance, Seán Son of Sherlock, Mallow mini-minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs, recently admitted that the airport crisis in Cork was very serious.

With deeply furrowed brow, he declared he would be taking the matter up at an ‘urgent meeting’ with Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe. The impression given was that ‘the meeting’ would solve everything.

Local FG deputy, Jerry Buttimer followed suit. He too called for an ‘urgent meeting’ with the management team at Cork Airport, ‘so that the Minister could hear directly from those involved on a day-to-day basis’. Such a procedure would give him ‘a detailed understanding of the local situation’. Ironically, Buttimer seemed to forget that the real decisions concerning the airport were taken in Dublin, not Cork.

Lost luggage

But, perhaps, the most bizarre intervention of all was that of newly elected Fine Gael MEP, Deirdre Clune. Within days of her election, she announced her determination to pontificate on matters aeronautical, but got her flight plans mixed up.

Inexplicably, she raised matters relating to baggage handling in European airports but didn’t see the problem in her own backyard: the life and death economic reality facing Cork Airport!

Laughter tinged with desperation greeted her communiqué to the masses, and Corkonians wondered if they deserved such an outstanding politico? Because, they asked, surely the meltdown of Cork Airport was a tad more important to the city and county than the mysteries of lost luggage?

Happily, Ms Clune copped on and gave notice of a ‘meeting’ that she was going to have with the Cork Airport management. ‘Future plans for development’ would be discussed at the ‘meeting’. She also wanted it known that she was in regular contact with the Minister for Transport, although she was unable to provide details on what they discussed.

Then, having ransacked the ‘Bedside Book of Political Platitudes,’ she advised that it was essential that the community in Cork get behind the development of the airport. ‘We need continued co-operation between the local authorities, tourism bodies, politicians and the people of Cork to ensure that we develop a top class viable airport in Cork’.

Crocodile tears

However, it is the comments of Mickey Martin that are the most intriguing, considering that he was involved in the decision that disastrously locked Cork into the DAA stranglehold.

Martin brazenly accused his political rivals of ‘crying crocodile tears over cutting and downgrading routes out of Cork Airport’. Rather tetchily, he complained that the airport simply was not a priority of this government: ‘We need to see intervention from government and the development of a coherent plan,’ he said.

And then came this: He claimed nothing was served by ‘calling for’ the Transport Minister to meet management at the airport unless the government was determined ‘to rethink its strategy, intervene and increase its promotion of Cork Airport’; all of which is quite true.

But, importantly, he does not advocate a breakaway for Cork on the lines of Shannon Airport and, in fact, he fudges the independence issue by indulging in verbal hanky-panky with comments about the need to ‘tie in Cork Airport with local development and tourism groups’.

Conclusion? There’s a kind of mad dimension to the disquiet that’s currently being expressed regarding the future of the airport. On the one hand, government politicos criticise government policy, but have no intention of doing anything, whereas Fianna Fáil, the party responsible for the mess, studiously avoids raising the stand-alone issue and ignores the reason why Shannon has become a success story.

As Vincent Browne wearily says on his dreadful chat show after listening to politicos unable to break out of the cliché mould: ‘Oh dear God, do I have to endure this?’ Cork people could say the same.

Lest we forget

Last week the British Legion was pleased at the sight of Ireland’s great and good honouring the British Armed Forces and that public acceptance of the British Legion symbol, the poppy, was on the way up.

One wonders if those Irish citizens who sported the poppy, including some daring politicos, were aware that commemorating the war dead of all nations is not the raison d’être of the thing? Quite the contrary! The role of the poppy is to raise loot for a very partisan British Army charity, and, yes, to remember the war dead: the British military war dead! It is not a symbol of peace.