The Government will give almost €14 million in taxpayers’ money to regional airports this year, including €5 million to one that has no scheduled services.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross said on Tuesday that the Government would allocate €8.85 million to Donegal, Kerry and Knock airports.
The funds will be used to beef up investment in safety and security across the three operational regional airports. Ireland West Airport Knock will be the largest benefactor, receiving grant funding of €5.7 million. Kerry will get €2.2 million, while Donegal will receive €884,912.
The funding is being provided under the regional airports’ programme which allows the State to give cash to the Republic’s four regional airports, Donegal, Kerry, Knock and Waterford, under two schemes, one to fund running costs and the other to cover capital spending.
The Government has also decided, subject to conditions, to give €5 million of exchequer funding to Waterford Airport, a facility that has not had any commercial flights since 2016. In the last year it did have commercial flights it recorded passenger numbers of 13,511, fewer than the Connemara Airport in Inverin, Co Galway – it caters for people travelling to and from the Aran Islands – which carried 21,345 passengers in the same year.
Waterford Airport is planning a €12 million runway extension that will enable it to cater for larger aircraft. A statement from the department said the remaining cost of the project would be met by private investor and local authority interests that have committed to funding €5 million and €2 million respectively in return for an equity shareholding in the airport.
Among the private investors are Dawn Meats Group, Glanbia Plc and Coolmore Stud. The local authorities involved are Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford.
“This model of funding represents an excellent example of cross-community and regional co-operation,” said Mr Ross. “Unless Waterford Airport receives this support, its future is highly uncertain.”
Waterford Chamber chief executive Gerald Hurley welcomed the investment by the State, adding that it would secure the future of the local airport and allow it to compete for international carriers using jet aircraft. “It is also encouraging to see the collaboration between public and private enterprises to ensure a timely delivery, which is a first in regional aviation in Ireland.”
The runway will be extended to 2,280m from its existing 1,433m, and will be able to accommodate aircraft including the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.
Mr Ross said the State's support was being provided subject to a number of conditions. Provided the airport can demonstrate that the project can be delivered for €12 million the funding will be released when all the upgrade works are completed and the runway is confirmed as being ready by the Irish Aviation Authority.
“Today’s announcement reaffirms this Government’s pledge to encourage balanced regional development, and to provide equal opportunities for growth and prosperity across all the regions, including the southeast,” Mr Ross said.