OPINION: Cork just not on this government's radar

January 30th, 2016 8:17 PM

By Southern Star Team

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Indifference to the way US Department of Transport  has obstructed a plan to put Cork Airport on the map

LET’S call a spade a spade. Kenny and crew don’t give a tinker’s about the real capital, or West Cork!  We’ve seen their response to the flooding crisis:  Bandon, Clonakilty, Skibbereen and other towns clamouring for measures to address the problem, only to be fobbed off with ‘Oh yes, it’s terrible. We really will get around to doing something  soon. Meanwhile Jim, Noel and Michael are doing their level best. Jerry and Simon are working flat out, as is Deirdre (our MEP) and, of course, don’t forget to mention Kathleeeeen in your piece!’

But despite having such industrious brainboxes, the plain fact of the matter is that Cork isn’t on the government’s radar. As far as Kenny and his Mayo mates are concerned, Cork is a sort of ‘nowhere’ place, alien and a pain in the butt, especially when Leeside politicos start their ‘dis and dat’ griping.

Nothing better illustrates Kenny’s apathetic disposition than his indifference to the way the US Department of Transport has obstructed a Norwegian plan to put Cork Airport on the map.

For the past two years, Norwegian Airline International has been trying to initiate a direct service from Cork to Boston, plus a Cork-New York service in 2017 and a Cork-Barcelona service. It’s got nowhere because the Yanks refuse to make a decision on the licence application, despite the fact that, since 2007, the EU-US Open Skies agreement allows any airline travelling from a EU state the automatic right to commercial flights in and out of the United States.   


Norsemen welcomed

Two years ago, Cork Airport folk were jumping with delight at the arrival of the Norsemen, hailing the proposed transatlantic services as a ‘game changer’ for a facility struggling to survive.

A confident CEO, Bjorn Kos of Norwegian, declared last October that it was now up to tourism and business interests in Cork, and the Irish in New York and Boston, to make the service a success.

Sadly, Mr Kos’s balloon is about to burst because of the American stance  –particularly that of airlines United, Delta and American – and of the US Department of Transportation, which is in breach of an international arrangement with the EU.

So frustrated are our Nordic friends that they’re considering throwing their hat at the venture and going home. From a business and tourism perspective, if this should happen, the loss to the city and West Cork would be incalculable.

And because the controversy has an international dimension involving Ireland, a response at the highest level from our government is required. But what have Mr Kenny and his ineffectual Transport Minister, the grinning Paschal Donohoe, been doing to advance a cause that is vital to the southern region?  Absolutely nothing!  

The Dear Leader has never shown much interest in the tribulations of Cork Airport and, indeed, the kindest remark that can be made of his lack of concern is that he’s been somewhat ‘detached’! But readers should not despair at his appalling disinterest in the life and looming death of an airport whose overlords, bizarrely, are the Dublin Airport Authority. 


Enda the orator

In answer to a Dáil question relating to the Norwegian airline, he revealed that ‘everything possible was being done,’ although he was somewhat short on details. Very short!

Oh, we nearly forgot. He also uttered these memorable (if somewhat inscrutable) words: ‘The Government is supportive of the service being allowed in Cork.  We hope that can become a reality.’ 

Was that just another example of incomprehensible, weasel-like language from our Taoiseach?  Certainly not!  Terse and abrupt perhaps, but compact and trenchant as only a great orator and leader can make it!  Well done, Inda, you certainly put Edmund Burke in the halfpenny place even if you impressed nobody in this neck of the woods.


Away in the clouds

As for Donohoe: he proudly told us that he ‘liaised’ with the EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, and in December ‘held talks.’ And, of course, he wrote to the US Secretary for Transportation, ‘outlining Ireland’s position.’   However, it’s clear that neither he nor Kenny appreciate the importance of the Norwegian airline’s commitment to Cork, or that the Norwegians have the potential to give the kiss of life to the airport!  

Our Deirdre, the Fine Gael MEP, fresh from her participation in a EU investigation into lost luggage, tediously called for ‘all channels of diplomacy to be used to secure the service that could transform Cork Airport’s fortunes, adding up to 50,000 passengers a year.’

Last week she pencilled in a meeting with the head of the European Commission’s External Aviation Policy sector and said her intention was to ‘push hard on the issue.’ A singularly impressive goal, indeed! 

Some critics would consider the government response to American bullying as illiterate, and we can assume that Cork Chamber chief executive, Conor Healy, was not impressed either on hearing Kenny’s and Donohoe’s dubious words of wisdom.  After all, he knows what’s at stake.

For Mr Healy, the controversy is of such importance to Cork that the Taoiseach must intervene personally. He also wants Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and other prominent public representatives to take the matter seriously and get involved, pronto.

But can we genuinely expect Kenny & Co to get the finger out? And will they put international pressure on the Yanks to abide by the EU-US Open Skies agreement?  Most importantly of all, does Fine Gael really have Cork’s best interests at heart – and, if not, why not?   


Mistaken identity

A curious story doing the rounds just now concerns John Bruton, the former FG Taoiseach. He’s no champion of the 1916 Rising, which has prompted speculation that he’s related to the famous Sergeant John Bruton of the Dublin Metropolitan Police who identified some of the 1916 leaders to the British. 

The story has its origins in a question Fianna Fail’s Ned O’Keeffe asked in the Dáil on February 7th, 1996.  Addressing Bruton, here’s what Ned-o said:  ‘An article in The Sunday Times of 21 May made reference to a Sergeant John Bruton of the Dublin Metropolitan Police who gave evidence against Joseph Plunkett which secured his conviction.  Was that man a relation?’

Taoiseach Bruton, who did not answer the question, retorted that ‘Deputy O’Keefe’s intervention says all that needs to be said about his party.’

The Irish Times was furious: ‘O’Keeffe,’ it said, ‘would have done little credit to a TD of the 1920s, who might at least have some justification for bitterness, but it was totally out of order in the Dáil of the 1990s.

’Whether or not John Bruton was a relative of the DMP man of the same name – and apparently he is not – is not the issue.  At issue is the playing on tribal passions and ‘closing-time republicanism’.

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