Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Select Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport

Estimates for Public Services 2021
Vote 29 - Environment, Climate and Communications (Revised)
Vote 31 - Transport (Revised)

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I will deal with the Deputy's last question first. Some €6 million of the €26 million fund is allocated to the regional airports in Knock, Kerry and Donegal. The remaining €20 million is allocated to the other airports. It is up to the individual airports to assess their needs as regards required funding and to make applications to the Department. I understand that work is under way and that engagement has commenced. It is absolutely critical that we ensure our airports are protected, and I include Shannon Airport and the mid-west region in that. The Deputy can be assured of my commitment to ensuring that protection. That is why we have put in place significant funding for all of our airports, so that they can negotiate directly with airlines and ensure that their operational and capital costs are covered. They know best what their needs are. That is the way it should be. They are commercial entities and were thriving before the Covid-19 pandemic. It is important that we enable them to thrive again.

We are constantly reviewing the situation and we are in constant contact with the aviation sector. My officials in the Department are in contact with the sector every week. I met representatives of the chambers of commerce in the region and I share their concerns about tourism. We are very reliant on international travel and what happens internationally affects us greatly, in addition to what happens here domestically. That is why we are looking at what our European partners are doing with regard to the roll-out of the vaccine and the potential for digital certificates. We are also looking at what the UK is doing, which includes the roadmap to be published on 21 April.

I assure the Deputy that my door is always open. I am constantly working and engaging with the industry, including through my work with that national civil aviation forum and the labour-employer economic forum, LEEF. It is through that engagement and by working through a roadmap to recovery for the aviation sector that we will be able to come out of this safely. That is the key message. We are on the way out of the pandemic. I am optimistic about that in light of the roll-out of the vaccine programme over the coming months. There will be almost 1 million vaccinations a month in April, May and June. I hope we will be in that place and we have to plan for that now, which is what we are doing. Everything is under review. We want to support our aviation sector while we get through this.


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