Dáil debates

Thursday, 16 February 2012

4:00 pm

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Question 1: To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the routes operated by Dublin Bus at the end of 2010 and the routes operated by Dublin Bus as of 1 February 2012; the number of routes merged within the Dublin Bus operational area between these dates; his assessment of the service provided by the company for the subvention it currently receives from the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8579/12]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Minister, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy's question relates to the publication of the Booz report on the future ownership and operation of Cork and Shannon airports. As I have advised the Deputy previously, the report contains commercially sensitive information, much of which was provided on a confidential basis. For this reason, it will not be possible to publish the report in full. However, I intend to publish a redacted version of the report before the end of the month, once I am satisfied that the confidential information is protected. Since the Deputy last raised the matter in the House, I have brought the Booz report to the Government for the information of my Cabinet colleagues. I have also commenced a process of engaging in detail with relevant stakeholders. When that process has been completed, I will bring proposals to the Government on the future of Cork and Shannon airports.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister for clarifying that he intends to publish a version of the report by the end of the month. I welcome that. As I have expressed to the Minister in the past, the report is causing great consternation and concern among workers and tourism interests in the Shannon region. They are deeply concerned that the report has not been published almost 12 months after the Government came to office on the back of expectations that it would introduce important measures to assist Shannon Airport and the wider region which would increase the number of routes at the airport and consequently boost passenger numbers. Expectations in the region were raised by statements and comments made by the Fine Gael Party and its partner in government. I am disappointed it is taking so long to publish the Booz report. I am also concerned by some of the leaks emanating from the Government or individuals who are familiar with the contents of the report. It is clear that some external interests are seeking to privatise, part-privatise or franchise in some manner the activities at the airport. Any such moves would fly in the face of the necessity to retain in State control not only the airport's infrastructure but also its operations, management, facilities and assets. I hope the Department will be able to live up to the stated intention to publish the report by the end of the month and it will not be necessary to have a further discussion on it in Question Time. I look forward to a debate in the Dáil or the Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht following its publication.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Minister, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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While I appreciate it has been almost 12 months since the Government assumed office, as the Deputy will be aware, Shannon Airport has been in limbo since 2008 when a decision was made to defer taking a decision. The period of limbo commenced in 2008 and I intend to end uncertainty about the airport this year.

I appreciate that tourism and employee interests in the region are concerned about Shannon Airport. I have visited the region twice and will do so again in the next few months. I met representatives of trade unions and business and tourism interests and while there is legitimate concern, there is also great ambition and excitement about the opportunities that could be provided as part of a new approach to Shannon Airport. I have been highly impressed by the engagement I have had with interests in the region and the realism they have shown in accepting that things cannot continue as they are. The airport is losing passengers and is in something of a decline. The status quo is not working and substantive change is needed in the way the airport operates.