Leo Varadkar does not want to ‘stop flying’ but believes there must be a move towards sustainable aviation fuels

The Taoiseach said the impact of international and internal travel on climate had to be taken into account

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he does not want to “stop flying” in the future.

Mr Varadkar said he believed the future was not “stopping flying” but instead there had to be a move towards sustainable and synthetic aviation fuels.

The Taoiseach was responding to Independent TD Michael McNamara during Leaders’ Questions on Wednesday, who said he was struck by the comments of the new chief executive of Tourism Ireland, as reported in The Irish Times.

In the article, Alice Mansergh said: “We have a calculation around revenue per carbon footprint. If we’re going to bring someone from the other side of the world, we’re going to make sure we target [those who are] valued-added, and [not those] coming in and out, leaving a carbon footprint, but without bringing value.”


Ms Mansergh also discussed capacity constraints at Dublin Airport and in the accommodation sector, and said that there was “still room for growth” but that it “needs to be responsible growth”.

Mr McNamara said increasingly and for a long period of time, there was a concentration of tourists “coming into Dublin and being bussed for a day to the Cliffs of Moher and back again”.

“Is there any examination of how sustainable that is,” the Clare TD said. “Is there any examination of whether there is a very wealthy or not-so-wealthy cohort of people who wish to see, travel in to and stay in the west of Ireland, so they are not coming into an overcrowded airport through an overcrowded city to be driven across the country and back again?”

Mr McNamara also questioned whether there was any consideration of the effect that the Government’s policy around housing refugees and those seeking asylum was having on the tourism sector.

The Taoiseach said the impact of international and internal travel on climate had to be taken into account.

“It has always been the case that we have taken into account not just the raw numbers of people visiting the country but also the spend,” he said.

“It would not be a secret to anyone in this House or in the tourism industry that somebody coming from the US who spends a week in Ireland and travels around the country will be of more economic value than somebody who comes and makes a short weekend visit.

“We have always taken into account both the numbers visiting and also the revenue brought in but people are welcome no matter where they are coming from or how long they stay.”

Mr McNamara said that he found the Fine Gael leader’s answer “somewhat surprising” and that on the one hand, he was saying “we need to curb international travel and take account of sustainability, and on the other, he wants to lift capacity limits at Dublin Airport”.

In response, Mr Varadkar said he was happy to clarify that he had not called for a curb on international travel, “far from it”.

“The future, for me, is not stopping flying. I do not want to stop flying either, by the way,” he said. “It is a move towards sustainable and synthetic aviation fuels, that is the future in my view. But we do need to take account of it, and we also need to consider offsetting as well.”

Mr Varadkar also said that the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Arts Catherine Martin was going to publish a new national tourism policy in early 2024 and would focus on the environment and also economic sustainability for the sector.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times