asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport the proposals, if any, to provide a scheduled air service for County Donegal.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Donegal Air Service.
(Dublin South-Central): Under the Air Navigation and Transport Acts, the operation of air services to, from or within the State requires my prior authorisation. There are at present no proposals with my Department for the operation of a scheduled air service to or from Donegal. Any application for the operation of a scheduled service must be supported by adequate evidence of the viability of the proposed service and the capacity of the operator financially, technically and otherwise to mount and sustain the service.
A number of authorisations have been granted for the operation of taxi-type, non-scheduled services and the holders of these authorisations would be free to operate to, from and within Donegal.
The Minister may not have understood the full impact of my question. I am asking for a scheduled air service to Donegal. The implications there would be that the State would, first of all, provide an airport in order that the service might be provided. Secondly, I ask the Minister whether, if no survey has been done, a survey might be initiated by the Department to ascertain the viability of and the necessity for this service. If such were undertaken, would the Minister take into account the isolation of County Donegal, the lack of rail services to Donegal which we once had, the lack of shipping transport to Donegal which once upon a time was available through Derry, the almost total absence of——
A question, Deputy.
I am asking him to take into account the lack of these modes of communication. Further, will he take into account the almost total absence of a telephone service and the near nonexistence of a television service? Would he also take into account that such an airport and such a service would surely serve not only Donegal but the greater part of Derry, all of Tyrone and parts of north Fermanagh? If all that is taken into account it can be seen that we need this badly and that it would be viable. Surely the State owes this to a county that has otherwise been totally neglected.
(Dublin South-Central): I appreciate the shortcomings which the Deputy has indicated. If any commercial company carries out a survey as regards the viability to sustain that company, and submits that survey to my Department, we will examine that application very closely. However, the question of the State itself being involved in airports is not being considered at the moment.
I refer the Minister back over a long number of years when there was very deep study on this, but again done by people other than those fully competent to do it, such as his Department would be. I would ask the Minister to check in his Department for such a report and the request for it that was made repeatedly many years ago. Further, I would ask him to take into account the availability of funds from the EEC Regional Fund, money that was not available to governments in the past.
(Dublin South-Central): I have no information that there is money available from the EEC for this kind of project.
I would refer the Minister to the visit of the then Commissioner, George Thomson, to Donegal some years ago when this matter was raised with him publicly. I would ask the Minister to check on the reply given by him, which was most favourable.
(Dublin South-Central): I have not that information. That may have been the position but there is no indication that funds are available.
I would ask the Minister to examine the matter again. The indications were that the regional fund would cater for such projects. Surely funds from this source could be used usefully on a matter of long-term benefit such as this project instead of the funds being frittered away in areas that do not really require money from the regional fund.
(Dublin South-Central): I will look into the matter.