State invests €40m in Knock Airport

EU rules are changing terms under which states can invest in regional airports

Total State spending on the facilities at Knock Airport is heading for €40 million, according to the company's latest figures. Accounts for Connaught Airport Development Company Ltd show that by December 31st last year, taxpayer funding for capital projects at Knock had hit €36.9 million since it opened in May 1986.

This included €1.965 million given to the airport company last year. That was separate from the €868,569 received under a Government programme that provides grants towards operational costs to regional airports.

Knock Airport spent the near €40 million it received from the State over 30 years on buildings, equipment, runway upgrades, improvements to safety and security and so on. According to the accounts, those assets were worth €19.5 million at the end of last year.

That does not mean that taxpayers have taken a €20 million hit on their “investment” in Knock. All it means is that their value has been written down in accordance with accounting rules. If somebody were to buy the airport in the morning, they could well value the buildings, runway and so for forth at a lot more, or a lot less, than €19.5 million.


Last August in this newspaper, Knock's chief executive, Joe Gilmore, outlined the return that taxpayers got for the money that they have spent on the airport down through the years.

“If you look for value for money, this airport has thrown off €140 million in tourism revenue to the region, 200 jobs, one million bed nights and 6,000 downstream jobs every year,” he said.

On the face of it, that seems a decent return. However, EU rules are changing the terms under which member states can support regional airports. Knock and the others are going to see the tap at least partly switched off in the future.