Mainline parties now exhibiting an unhealthy indifference to the plight of Cork Airport
HERE’S a strange one: Ryanair is closing its Cork and Shannon airport bases for the duration of the winter months, with a potential loss of 60 Ryanair staff. What’s astonishing is that our political masters have nothing to say on the Ryanair pull-out, but neither are the politicos lining up to express their confidence in the long-term future of Cork Airport. Which raises this question: is the airport for the chop?
Oops, sorry, we’re wrong. Tánaiste Vlad actually did say something. He uttered these immortal words: ‘the closure (of Cork Airport) would be a huge blow to the region’ and
then returned to whatever a Tánaiste does in the role of deputy head of government – such as playing tiddlywinks, inviting the lads in for an auld game of poker, trying to offload an out-of-date set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
As for the real Taoiseach, Mickey Martin? Well, he has yet to comment!
Nor did we hear a peep from our MEPS who love to tell us how they work night and day looking after the interests of their Munster bailiwick. But, in this case, an eerie silence prevails in Fine Gael, despite MEPs Seán Kelly and our own Deirdre Clune having told us (frequently) that the promotion of Cork Airport always has been top of their list of ‘things to do’!
But, despite the trojan efforts of people like Ms Clune, there seems to be an unhealthy indifference by the mainline parties to the plight of Cork Airport!
And, have no doubt but that the burden of responsibility for Airport woes falls with a deadening clunk on the broad shoulders of Eamo’ Ryan, the Greenie Minister for Transport, who – in a tangential sort of way – took the announcement of Ryanair’s pull-out slightly more seriously than other politicos.
Here’s what he did. Having temporarily descended from his high-nelly, he made a profound statement to the proles regarding traffic lights! Or, to be precise, the so-called EU ‘traffic-light system’ for tourism travel during the coronavirus outbreak.
As far as we understand the plan (Eamo provided few details), the EU was faced with a confusing mish-mash of travel rules relating to Covaid-19. So, to make things simpler, consultants advised designating colours to different European regions according to the level of pandemic risk in those regions.
For instance, a green area would allow free movement from green and orange regions while people coming from red areas would have to show test results ‘confirming they did not have Covid-19 before travelling.’ Or something like that!
Immediately Ryanair, Aer Lingus, the DAA , trade unions and the International Air Transport Association, considered the traffic-lights initiative a no-no. They said the scheme would not ‘eliminate the need for quarantines and other restrictions.’
A testing regime
In their opinion, a common testing regime was the way forward and, were it introduced, travel to and from the Republic could restart without delay. The plan sounded logical and feasible and, without such a procedure, the closure of airline bases at Cork and Shannon appeared to be inevitable.
However, it elicited neither a Yea nor a Nay from Transport Minister Eamon Ryan who (apparently) preferred to give a linguistically reflective ‘hmm’ to the proposed project, as if balancing the environmental issues associated with airplanes with the negative influences associated with the operation of airports, such as emissions, noise pollution, land utilisation, waste and congestion.
To his credit, Ryanair boss,Michael O’Leary called on Transport Minister Eamo’ to introduce immediately the EU traffic-lights system so that travel to and from the Republic could restart without 14-day quarantines.
We’re unaware of Eamo’s response but, from the stories ‘out there,’ it’s very possible that Ryanair’s chief executive, Eddie Wilson, is not too happy with the Transport Minister’s effectiveness in promoting the interests of the aviation industry.
Aer Lingus, which is carrying out a review of its operations at Cork and Shannon, has appealed to the government to fully implement the EU ‘traffic-lights’ system.
The company argues that not only would such a system help bring order to a confusing network of restrictions across Europe, it also would reinstate the movement of people across the EU.
What’s more, in an interview with ‘Dublin Live’ last May, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary denounced quarantine restrictions as ‘idiotic,’ particularly the ones that applied to Spain, a country which demands a two-week isolation stint.
But the bottom line, as far as the ‘traffic-lights’ plan is concerned, is that any new assessment system for travelling in the EU cannot be put in place until an appropriate balance has been made between travel and public health. And that’s the conundrum for which a satisfactory answer has yet to be found!
In the meantime, according to Minister Eamo’, should the Cabinet decide to implement the EU traffic lights system it is likely to take at least two months before being put in place.
And, as for introducing a ‘testing regime’ for passengers coming into the country, well, Eamo’ already has such a scheme up his sleeve but it too would require a few months to get going. Apparently, there’s kinda no urgency, like!
But, importantly, once the ‘testing regime’ is up and running, passengers will regain their confidence in flying, knowing that it is safe to do so.
Sadly, Minister Eamo’ doesn’t have much to say on Ryanair’s abandonment of Cork and Shannon airports for the winter months. Indeed it almost seems that he has little more than a detached interest in the topic, inevitable perhaps for someone who has done so much for bicycle lanes.
Not that the Green leader’s environmental ideas are out of date in any way. Certainly not. For instance, his use of the buzz-word ‘connectivity’ is apposite and to the point.
He told the Dáil that Ireland was an island dependent on ‘connectivity’ and that aviation played a critical role in our economy, ensuring that Cork and Shannon were key players in delivering high quality, international ‘connectivity.’
So, well done, Eamo’, even if on occasions we haven’t a clue what you’re spouting about!