Seanad debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

6:00 pm

Photo of John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)

I thank both the Cathaoirleach and Senator Buttimer for their welcome and their kind remarks.

The State Airports Act 2004 provides the framework for the establishment of Shannon and Cork as independent airports. As part of the airport restructuring process, the boards of Cork and Shannon airports are required to prepare business plans for eventual separation. As they are inter-linked, the production of the three airport business plans will have to be co-ordinated by the Dublin Airport Authority to ensure overall coherence before they are submitted to the Ministers for Transport and Finance for their approval under the Act.

In their examination of the plans, both Ministers will have to be satisfied that the airports have the capacity to operate on a sound commercial basis before giving final approval to the business plans. The Minister for Transport understands the Dublin Airport Authority has been advised by consultants on an appropriate financing proposal that would facilitate the statutory objective of the separation of Cork Airport from the DAA in a timely manner consistent with the requirements of the State Airports Act 2004 and the Companies Acts.

The Minister is aware that the outcome of this analysis was that Cork Airport could sustain a certain level of debt while remaining a very viable enterprise. He understands the board of the Cork Airport Authority also engaged consultants to examine further the issue of the Cork debt. It is clear the debt issue is crucial to the business planning process and there will have to be agreement on this point between the Cork Airport Authority and the Dublin Airport Authority before the Cork business plan can be completed and submitted to both Ministers.

The Government's position is that the funding of the new terminal and other works at Cork Airport will have to take account not only of what is commercially and financially feasible for Cork Airport but also what is commercially and financially feasible for Dublin Airport Authority. If the Cork Airport Authority is to achieve autonomy in the foreseeable future, it will have to accept responsibility for a reasonable portion of the outstanding debt, in return for the substantial assets to be transferred to it on separation.

The co-ordination role of the DAA will be central to the conclusion of the business planning processes for both Shannon and Cork. Accordingly, the Minister has encouraged the Cork Airport Authority to engage with the DAA on its business plan and in particular on the issue of the debt to pave the way for eventual autonomy for Cork Airport. I understand a draft of the Cork Airport business plan was submitted to the DAA in recent days.

The Minister looks forward to a pragmatic and constructive engagement by all concerned. Subject to satisfactory progress being made on the plans, the Minister awaits the DAA's overall considered views on airport separation to enable the plans to be examined by the Minister and the Minister for Finance. Only then will the Minister be in a position to consider the timing for the restructuring of the three State airports.


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