Written answers

Tuesday, 2 November 2004

9:00 pm

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Question 127: To ask the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the operation to date of the three new airport authorities, established following the abolition of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26948/04]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin (Kerry South, Labour)
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Question 180: To ask the Minister for Transport the future of the Great Southern Hotel Group in the context of the abolition of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26949/04]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 373: To ask the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the negative comments on the breaking up of Aer Rianta; the extent to which the proposals have been costed or set against the existing structures and net benefit identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27286/04]

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 127, 180 and 373 together.

In keeping with the provisions of the State Airports Act 2004, the newly appointed board of the Dublin Airport Authority has a statutory mandate to do everything necessary to give effect to the restructuring of the State airports. The new Shannon and Cork airport authorities have also been incorporated and in line with the framework provided by the State Airports Act 2004, these two new authorities will, in due course, own and operate their respective airports once sufficient distributable reserves are available to transfer the relevant assets.

Prior to the assets of Shannon and Cork airports being vested in their respective authorities, their boards are charged with preparing to assume full responsibility for the management and development of their airports. They are also empowered to undertake functions delegated to them, on an agreed basis, by the Dublin Airport Authority and the three airport authorities are currently discussing the scope and scale of such delegated functions. Each of the airport authorities are also required to prepare comprehensive business plans for their airports.

In accordance with the 2004 Act, the transfer of assets to Shannon and Cork airport authorities cannot take place earlier then 30 April 2005 and, thereafter, a phased approach will allow one of the new airport authorities to be vested first, that is, Shannon Airport, while Cork Airport will be vested once sufficient distributable reserves have been built up within the Dublin Airport Authority. Both I and the Minister for Finance must be satisfied as to the state of operational and financial readiness of the Shannon and Cork airport authorities before the assets of the airports are vested in those authorities. The formulation of comprehensive business plans by the new boards will be a key aspect of achieving operational and financial readiness. In furtherance of Dublin Airport Authority's new role, the position of its principal subsidiaries, including the Great Southern Hotels Group, must be considered by the authority in the first instance and then by me.

Dublin Airport Authority will also engage fully with the Commission for Aviation Regulation which is charged with making a new regulatory determination of airport charges in respect of Dublin Airport. The new determination must be made as soon as practicable but in any event not later than 1 October 2005. The outcome of this process, which the Commission launched last month, will be a major factor in the dynamic effort required on the part of Dublin Airport Authority to address capacity provision at Dublin Airport where passenger traffic is projected to grow from almost 16 million in 2003 to 30 million by around 2018.

I am confident that the new boards of the three airport authorities will successfully meet the challenges ahead. Through more focused commercial operation, all three airports can play a greater role in stimulating and supporting regional and national economic activity to the benefit of their customers, both airlines and passengers, and of Irish tourism, trade and industry.

In tandem with the ongoing work to give effect to the restructuring, my Department will maintain the engagement process with ICTU and the airport unions on the relevant areas of concern arising from the new legislative environment. In this regard, I recently appointed four worker directors, who were nominated by the unions, to the board of Dublin Airport Authority to fill the casual vacancies which were created on 1 October, pending the holding of worker elections. My Department has also asked the authority to accelerate the election process and it is the intention that the procedures required by the worker participation legislation will commence as soon as possible. In the case of the Shannon and Cork airport authorities, I am awaiting a full list of nominees from the unions for appointment as worker directors to the boards of those authorities on a temporary basis pending their establishment on a fully independent basis.

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