FINE GAEL TD Jim Daly hosted a round table conference in Inchydoney last May with all the relevant stakeholders agreeing to make the success of the airport a priority.
This week Deputy Daly confirmed to the Southern Star that Minister for Tourism Paschal Donohoe – who also attended the Inchydoney discussion – had requested a review of the progress being made by the local authorities, Failte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Cork Airport management before year’s end.
The deputy said he would be inviting all the stakeholders to another meeting with the Minister before Christmas to review the efforts being made to grow tourism in the area.
He added that a review of the current promotion of the Cork region will be concluded by the end of October.
When asked if he was satisfied with the references to Cork Airport in the recent National Avaitaion Policy, Deputy Daly said he felt there was much more focus on Cork Airport in this plan than its predecessor and welcomed the plans to review Cork Airport’s staus again in 2019.
Meanwhile, his party colleague Noel Harrington TD said he was also satisfied with the level of coverage of Cork in the policy document. ‘It specifically refers to Cork Airport’s role as a regional hub or gateway for both business and tourism. This is crucial as the business community requires this essential connectivity to grow and expand in the Munster region. It also refers to Cork’s strategic location to support both the Wild Atlantic Way tourist and also those looking to try Ireland’s Ancient East trail,’ he told The Star.
‘In my opinion, it is always more beneficial to allow the airport the freedom and flexibility to adopt its own initiatives rather than specific diktats from a National Policy Document,’ he said.
‘There has been much fanfare about Shannon Airport achieving independence from the DAA,’ said Deputy Daly, ‘but I believe that the short term growth in Shannon is unsustainable and is fuelled by the current free charges for airlines. This cannot last and you will see major problems in Shannon in another two to three years as they realise you cannot run an airport on free landing charges,’ the Clonakilty-based politician predicted.
Deputy Harrington also agrees with management that putting off a decision until 2019 could be a wise move. ‘Post 2019, is very difficult to predict. At the moment, the DAA, to which Cork is aligned, is going through a transformation. Dublin can meet additional demand, but this has obvious implications for the role of Cork Airport and I believe it will benefit enormously from joint collaboration with Dublin. Also, the recent decision to sell Aer Lingus will have an impact. The effects of these developments will become more evident over the next few years, and any decision should be taken on Cork’s status then,’ he said this week.
He said he wouldn’t be in favour of either a sell-off of the airport, or a public private partnership, but believes the Cork Dublin route should be reconsidered so Cork can feed into Dublin’s ‘increasing hub traffic’.
Deputy Harrington also feels there is merit in pushing for US routes: ‘There is potential in beginning to consider, for example, summer routes to cater for growing tourism demand to North America and our own very successful tourism potential from North America – the Wild Atlantic Way and more.’
Labour deputy Michael McCarthy has said that increased connectivity into Cork ‘is critical’ if the region is to attract more holidaymakers and business travellers.
But he has been very complimentary of the operation of Cork Airport, describing it as a ‘hugely efficient airport operation, providing award-winning services 24/7 with a staff of 235 people’.