21 Meitheamh 2017
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called on the governments north and south to work together to promote the country’s regional airports.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking after a question she posed to the European Authorities revealed that new state aid rules now exempt certain public support measures for ports, airports, culture and the outermost regions from prior European Commission scrutiny.
“Essentially what this means, for airports at least, is that Member States can now make public investments in regional airports handling up to 3 million passengers per year with full legal certainty and without prior control by the Commission,” she said.
“It also allows public authorities to cover operating costs of small airports handling up to 200,000 passengers per year.
“This development, which only came into force a few weeks ago, has the potential to be a game changer for regional airports throughout Ireland.
“Currently, the only airport in Ireland that carries 3,000,000 passengers annually is Dublin Airport, however, we have nine further airports with varying passenger numbers.
“These are Belfast City, Belfast International, Cork, Derry, Donegal, Knock, Kerry, Shannon and Waterford.
“It should now be a Government priority, in conjunction with the authorities in the north, to develop a comprehensive development plan to maximise the growth potential of all our regional airports and maximise their potential into the future.
“Strategic public investments now need to be made into our regional airports to offer our citizens connectivity, choice and help develop new routes to grow passenger numbers and create employment.
“I note the most recent announcement of a new Irish Start-up, Aer South East, which will begin offering commercial flights from Waterford Airport again. This is a most welcome development.
“However, these changes from the European Commission need to be utilised now to ensure Waterford Airport, along with our other regional airports, flourish into the future.”