Independent airport must attract investors, says Varadkar


Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said that an independent Shannon airport has to be attractive to private investors.

At an Irish Business Aviation convention organised by Shannon Airport and Shannon Development in Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, yesterday, Mr Varadkar said: “There is no point in doing what we are trying to do if it is not attractive to investors. It is our intention that the holding company can stay in public ownership, but there can be extensive private sector involvement.”

Currently, a steering group and two task forces are examining issues around the Government’s May decision to separate Shannon from the Dublin Airport Authority.

The task forces are due to report to Government by November.

“I’m very determined that there shouldn’t by any drift in this process,” Mr Varadkar said. “I think there needs to be a sense of urgency. I want decisions to be made this year and implementation to begin this year.

“If we don’t act, Shannon probably will fall away to become a regional airport and that is something we don’t want to see,” he added.

“The infrastructure there is too good and the asset is too valuable to allow it to fall back where it would just effectively be a regional airport and no one wants that to happen.”

Mr Varadkar said that any tax incentives for the planned Centre of Aviation Excellence at Shannon could be put together in time for the December budget.

“The airport is still in decline and this year things haven’t picked up.” He revealed a fresh blow to the airport’s business when he confirmed that the much trumpeted US Customs and Borders Protection facility is scaling back its hours by 25 per cent due to a lack of business. The facility is also in place in Dublin.

Its opening in 2009 prompted the then airport director at Shannon, Martin Moroney, to state that through the Customs and Borders Protection, Shannon would be a very busy airport by 2012 and “give substantial growth in commercial and corporate jet business on the transatlantic”.