Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Cork Airport Opening.

38.

asked the Minister for Transport and Power why the opening of the Cork Airport will be delayed for some six weeks from the date already announced, namely, 1st September, 1961, when the cement strike was not of that duration; if there is any hope that the airport might still be opened before the date now proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The delivery of supplies of cement from the factories ceased on 29th April and supplies were resumed on 5th June. Owing to the very high consumption of cement at Cork Airport, no substantial stock was held when deliveries ceased. Hence, all major constructional work involving the use of cement was retarded by a minimum of five weeks working time. The postponement of the date for commencement of restricted operations by six instead of five weeks is due to several factors. The interruption occurred at the best time of the year for outdoor construction and it may well take longer in the autumn to recover the time lost. It is also necessary to bring the technical facilities to a more advanced stage of completion to meet the less favourable weather conditions which are to be expected later in the year.

Deputies will be aware that the past eighteen months have been most unfavourable to constructional work. Weather conditions in 1960 were the worst experienced for a record number of years. In spite of this, the work at Cork Airport had been pressed forward to the extent that I was confident that the difficulties would be surmounted to allow the commencement of operations on 1st September. It is a great disappointment to me that this further difficulty has negatived the exceptional earlier efforts which had been made by all concerned.

I want to impress on the House that the commissioning of a new international airport is no light matter. Stringent requirements have to be met in relation to aeronautical communications, landing aids and air traffic control procedures. These involve the installation of complicated electrical cabling, landing lights and advanced electronic instruments. Many people, seeing a completed runway, may feel that no more is required but I assure them that this, though a primary requirement, is far from the only one. Even to achieve the new date of 16th October, exceptional efforts are required from all concerned in the provision of Cork Airport.