Galway Airport site purchase criticised
Former Galway mayor accuses city’s new manager of lack of consultation
A former Galway mayor has accused the city’s new manager of lack of consultation with elected representatives over the local authority’s decision to make a joint purchase of the Galway Airport site for ¤1.1 million
A former Galway mayor has accused the city’s new manager of lack of consultation with elected representatives over the local authority’s decision to make a joint purchase of the Galway Airport site for €1.1 million.
Cllr Catherine Connolly (Ind) said that only half of the councillors were in the meeting room last night when the decision to buy the 115-acre site in partnership with Galway County Council was announced by manager Brendan McGrath.
A city council spokesman has confirmed that councillors were informed under “any other business” during a special meeting to discuss arts grants and quarterly reports from different departments.
Cllr Connolly said that while it may be a “good decision”, elected representatives were owed a written report on the reasons for the purchase, and on plans for the future, given that the license for the airport is about to expire.
“Why are councillors here at all if we are not be consulted, and this is particularly worrying when increased powers are to be afforded to local authority managers next year,”Cllr Connolly said.
The city council had expected to discuss the failure of a park and ride scheme from the airport, which it subvented to the tune of €50,000, she noted.
Galway Chamber, the airport’s majority shareholder, said it had made “every effort to keep Galway Airport licensed and operational but the situation is no longer feasible”.
The chamber’s president Jim Fennell commended both local authorities for “their foresight and vision in taking this decision”.
“The facility has been trading since 1985 at Carnmore and has made a huge contribution to the city and the region,”the chamber said.
Galway airport’s viability came under pressure in 2011 when Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar announced the ending of the airport’s annual operational grant and subsidy on the airport’s Dublin route, and Aer Arann withdrew its flights for the winter. At that stage, the regional airline was the sole scheduled flight passenger operator at Carnmore.
The opening of the new M6 motorway that year and competition from private bus links to Dublin had threatened the long-term viability of air links to the capital.
Most of the airport’s 54-strong workforce was let go, and in February last year, the company behind the airport found it could no longer meet short-term cash commitments when Bank of Ireland withdrew €1.1 million from the company’s bank account and offset it against the company’s loans.
Figures returned to the Companies Office last year showed that the airport had bank loans totalling €6.8 million as of December 2011.
In a statement today, the two local authorities said that the purchase agreed yesterday “presents both councils with the opportunity to develop an excellent brown-field site on the outskirts of the city for the future economic development of the city, county and region”.
“The purchase of the former airport jointly by both councils comes in advance of significant new responsibilities in relation to economic development former airport site is a significant asset located adjacent to the M6 Dublin - Galway motorway and the new Oranmore train station,”it said.
“The purchase includes 115 acres of land, the former terminal building and two hangars. Any future use of the land and other assets to facilitate and support economic development will be agreed jointly by both Councils before proceeding,”the local authorities said.
“It is understood that the airport license under which Galway Airport has operated will be returned to the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport in the coming weeks by the current owners,”the statement said.
Galway City Council said it would not be responding to Cllr Connolly’s criticisms. Five remaining staff at the airport are due to be let go, and the impact on private operators and a flying club is as yet unclear.