Taoiseach under pressure over Knock airport’s future

Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin says Government “sweetheart deal” with Shannon “changed the rules”

Taking off at Ireland West Airport Knock, in Co Mayo. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

Taking off at Ireland West Airport Knock, in Co Mayo. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is coming under renewed pressure within his own party over the future of Ireland West Airport Knock in his home constituency of Mayo.

Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin has claimed the Department of Transport has a “bias” against Knock, and says it should qualify for subsidies similar to those given to the Scottish highlands and islands airports and other regional airports in the EU.

In a letter to Mr Kenny, details of which are published in this week’s Western People, she also says that a report by Fine Gael deputy John O’Mahony on the airport last year “doesn’t seem to address concerns for the future and sustainable growth of the airport on a scale which is required”.

Ms Mulherin told The Irish Times she had commissioned her own report on Knock, a copy of which she has sent to Mr Kenny, in which she outlines why it should qualify for subsidies.

Attitude

“The ground rules changed when Shannon Airport had its debt sorted under its restructuring,” she said, referring to the 2012 decision to separate Shannon from the Dublin Airport Authority.

It became part of the Shannon group this year, comprising an independent airport and a restructured Shannon Development.

“In my analysis, under this new sweetheart deal for Shannon, the State is effectively giving some €12 per passenger to its airport, compared to €3 per passenger for Knock,” she said. “Yet Knock served a peripheral area, with no motorway,” she said.

“The deal was done with Shannon before publication of a national aviation policy, and now that we have that policy in place there is still no recognition of Knock,” she said.

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She also believes a Department of Transport official should be charged with working with State agencies and the airport’s board on “tangible solutions” for Knock.

Ms Mulherin said she had not received a response from Mr Kenny but understood her letter had been referred to the Department of Transport.

Earlier this month the airport’s chairman Joe Kennedy called on Mr Kenny to “honour” a “private pledge” he gave to the airport in 2011.