Obviously there are many questions we could ask about yesterday's tragedy but as there are expressions of sympathy on the Order of Business I do not wish to also raise it under Leaders' Questions.
Following a visit to Cork last week, members of the business community brought to my attention serious concerns about commitments given by the Government on the debt Cork Airport now faces. As I understand it, on 19 July 2003, the then Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, announced on behalf of the Government that it had made a decision to break up Aer Rianta and to establish independent airport authorities at Dublin, Cork and Shannon. On that occasion the Minister gave specific assurances that both Cork and Shannon would be debt free so as not to hinder their future development. The Minister said this status was vital to allow the airports to compete for new business. He also said it would mean a fresh start for all three airports.
As I understand it, the terminal at Cork Airport is under construction. Some 600 persons are working on the terminal and the wage bill is more than €900,000 a week. A business plan has not yet been submitted. Cork Airport faces a debt of €160 million as a result of this development and that figure continues to rise. I understand the debt in respect of Shannon is of the order of €80 million. In the context of the commitment given by the then Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, and irrespective of what business plans come in, surely this means that the viability of both airports will be seriously hampered as a consequence? Is it the Government's intention to honour the commitment given on its behalf by the then Minister, Deputy Brennan, on 19 July 2003?