Seanad debates

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

10:30 am

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Fine Gael)

I was not here yesterday for the expressions of sympathy on the death of Gay Byrne. I watched the special programme late last night and the one thing that came across, and it is a lesson for all politicians, was that his greatest skill was that he listened. He let people talk. I pay tribute to him. He was the greatest broadcaster of his generation by a mile but his main skill was that he listened when people spoke.

I welcome the announcement from Aer Lingus today that it will now fly from Shannon Airport to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.It has been announced today and will take effect from 29 March. Aer Lingus will fly to Charles de Gaulle Airport four days a week and, on the other three days, the aircraft will fly to Barcelona. That Barcelona route will start on 2 May.

I am particularly interested in the Charles de Gaulle route because it brings major European hub connectivity, something I have been pushing for on behalf of Shannon Airport for a long time. This is the start of the process and I would like to see year-round flights. This flight is welcome but will only fly between 29 March and 31 October. We need support from people in the region and nationally for this route. We welcome people from every corner of Ireland flying out of Shannon. We hope that these routes, particularly the Charles de Gaulle one, will be extended to all year round so we have major European hub connectivity.

There are further applications before the Department for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister, Deputy Ross, for other European hub connectivity flights from Shannon Airport and it is something we need. It is significant, with the advent of Brexit, that we will have this European hub connectivity in place in time for whatever happens with Brexit. It will benefit not only the area in Shannon but Ireland Inc. Shannon Airport is an international airport that happens to be based in the mid-west region; it is not necessarily a mid-west airport. It is an international airport for Ireland that is operating significantly under capacity. It can cater for 4.5 million passengers per year and currently caters for approximately 1.8 million.

It can take one any length of time to go from one end of Dublin Airport to the other. It is chaos to get through Dublin. One could take a bus or transport to Shannon Airport where there is ample car parking, ample space for flying with a modern, upgraded runway. The two airports should not be competing with one another. There is too much of that in Ireland. We are a small island with good road connectivity which will be shortly boosted by the M20.

This is a significant announcement for Shannon Airport. Major European hub connectivity will be in place from the end of March and guaranteed to the end of October. I want that to be extended to being year-round and to have other European destinations. Project Ireland 2040 aims to achieve 75% of growth outside of Dublin and Shannon Airport is a key element in that. Let us get behind Shannon and take Aer Lingus flights to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Let us have year-round European hub connectivity to make us Brexit-proof, not only for Shannon and the region but for Ireland Inc. as well.

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