Seanad debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

6:00 pm

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)

I, too, welcome the Minister of State, Deputy John McGuinness, to the House and congratulate him on his appointment.

The issue of Cork Airport is important and needs to be resolved. In simple terms, a promise that Cork Airport would be debt free was made by the former Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan. It was agreed that the board of the Cork Airport Authority would be a separate autonomous board. Neither of these has happened.

I question how long more Cork can put up with this. Will a third Minister for Transport refuse to deal with the issue? His predecessors have not answered the question and I hope the Minister of State and the Minister will not fail to deliver on the promise.

Cork Airport has a new terminal building but there is still the outstanding question of when the Government will honour its commitment to the people of Cork and to the Cork Airport Authority to provide a debt-free Cork Airport. Why has it taken so long to grant independent status to Cork Airport? What is the Government doing to create a truly independent airport authority in Cork? It is nonsense to ask the board of the airport to draw up and present a business plan when the board is in limbo regarding the cost and the size of the debt. Cork Airport needs to be debt free and separate from Dublin Airport Authority. Under no circumstances should Cork be lumbered with a debt as this was never meant to be the case under the terms of the break-up of Aer Rianta.

The distribution of the assets of Aer Rianta, such as the duty-free shops, the Great Southern Hotels group and the share in Birmingham Airport, has freed up considerable resources which could be put towards the elimination of Cork's debt. I will not retell the history of the issue other than to say a decision is required. This lies in the hands of the Government and it is time for delivery.

A political promise was made by the then Minister in both Houses of the Oireachtas. Cork Airport should not have to pay debts and the people of Cork city and county should not have to face the consequences of an airport being levelled with a debt. There is frustration in Cork as it has been three years since this debt was accrued. I ask the Minister of State that a decision be made on the Cork Airport debt and the separation of Cork Airport Authority from the Dublin Airport Authority.


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