Travellers on suspended services between Dublin and regional airports in Donegal and Kerry have urged the Government to step in and save what they call a "lifeline" to rural communities.
In Donegal, musician Moya Brennan of Clannad said the loss of the air route was "devastating" for the local area and said the Government had to save it.
“It really is a lifeline for the people of Donegal,” she told The Irish Times. “This is not a luxury, it’s a necessity, and it has to be sorted.
"Local people use it . . . it's not just musicians like me, or politicians, that use it. It really is a lifeline because of the area [of west Donegal] that it's in and our isolation from the rest of Ireland, because of no public transport," said Brennan, from Gweedore. "A lot of the people that use it are going to see consultants, or are cancer patients."
Both Brennan and fellow musician Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan, who lives near the airport in Castlefinn, said the flight had been a crucial factor in allowing them to move home from Dublin to Donegal while still working in their industry.
“It was a game-changer for me,” explains Ní Mhaonaigh. “It gave me a better quality of life, I was able to raise my child with the Irish language and it created a whole lifestyle for me that I benefited from as a musician and as a creator, because I was able to be where my music was from.
"I was able to be in Dublin any morning at nine o'clock and make connecting flights to Europe or America, so it was essential during non-Covid times. We're starting [touring] again in the autumn, so with the flight gone I'll be really stuck," she adds.
Those who have used the flight include family members and those travelling to Dublin for medical treatment.
“We’re always forgotten when anything is dealt out by the Government,” says Ní Mhaonaigh. “We’re the furthest away, the population isn’t big enough for the voting figures so they don’t really care, and that really annoys me because we pay the same taxes as anybody else. This has to be reinstated now.”
Kerry GAA chair Tim Murphy similarly described the regional air link between his county and Dublin as a “lifeline”.
It allowed for a quick turnaround for matches and meetings at Croke Park, and has regularly facilitated specialist medical treatment for players in Dublin.
Like other GAA figures, he has been involved in seeking ways to revive rural life and working on trying to bring better broadband and to promote digital hubs in Sneem and other towns.
“But you need that quick physical link to Dublin to make it all work. There is a need for remote workers to get to the capital quickly once a week or once fortnight, and the airport and the multiple daily connections with Dublin is key to that,” he said.
Everything must be done to get the route back up and running to seize the window of opportunity for remote working offered by better broadband in tandem with the link to Dublin, he said.
On Monday evening, Aer Lingus indicated that it was “ready” to operate the Dublin-Kerry route, “subject to an appropriate PSO [public service obligation] arrangement being put in place”. The carrier also said it was “actively exploring options that would enable the provision of a Dublin-Donegal service”.
Estonian state-owned airline Nordica, which operates PSO routes in Sweden, has also offered to take on the Kerry-Dublin route, it is understood.
Talks with Nordica had begun before Stobart’s collapse and they are understood to have progressed further since.
It is understood the preference in Government is for an operator to take on both routes, and for the current level of provision and frequency of flights to be maintained. The Cabinet is likely to be briefed on the latest developments on Tuesday by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State for International and Road Transport Hildegarde Naughton, who attends Cabinet.