Limerick Chamber ‘heartened’ by Tánaiste’s support for regional airports

Mid-west region awaits finalisation of Shannon Estuary Taskforce amid recovery fears

Aircraft at Shannon Airport. Photograph:  Brendan Gleeson

Aircraft at Shannon Airport. Photograph: Brendan Gleeson

 

Limerick Chamber has welcomed an expression of support from Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar on possible positive discrimination for regional airports, including Shannon, as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 crisis.

The chamber also highlighted another potential boost for the mid-west region after Mr Varadkar expressed confidence that the make-up of the planned Shannon Estuary Taskforce will be announced this summer.

The Tánaiste recently spoke to Limerick Chamber’s strategic partners group, which comprises some of the region’s largest employers, with topics including the chamber’s call for an “urban future strategy” to complement an existing rural plan as well as the likelihood of support for Shannon Airport.

Businesses in the region fear that the recovery in aviation post-pandemic will not spread beyond Dublin, with traffic growth reverting to the lopsided pattern seen in the decade before Covid-19.

“We were heartened by the Tánaiste’s comments that he favours positive discrimination towards regional airports in the period ahead,” said Limerick Chamber chief executive Dee Ryan.

“Crucially, the Tánaiste noted that supports are permissible under EU guidelines for regional airports with passenger numbers of less than 3 million and are not limited to the period of the Covid economic recovery.”

Ms Ryan said Limerick Chamber looked forward to details of this support emerging and that any funding for route development at Shannon Airport should take into consideration the wider economic impacts of the transport links, rather than focusing only on tourism routes.

“Positive discrimination in favour of non-Dublin airports will drive increased passenger numbers and economic benefits to the regions and will be a step forward in achieving balanced regional development and Government’s Project Ireland 2040 goals,” Ms Ryan said.

Energy hub

The Limerick Chamber chief also highlighted the potential to develop the Shannon Estuary as a hub for offshore renewable energy.

“The business community understands the incredible economic potential that offshore floating wind offers the region. A Shannon Foynes Port Company report in 2020 estimated that as many as 30,000 jobs could be created if we can co-ordinate nationally to realise this opportunity.”

The prize for the State is “enormous” if it gets renewable energy right, she added.

“In Europe the race for offshore wind has already started and other countries are ahead of us in terms of putting permissions, licences and investment in place to facilitate offshore wind supply chain. If we don’t act fast, other nations will be harnessing our Atlantic coast wind years ahead of us.”