I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 75, 101, 120 and 167 together.
The State Airports Act 2004 provides for the establishment of the three State airports at Dublin, Shannon and Cork as fully independent and autonomous authorities under State ownership. New boards were appointed at all three airports in 2004. The boards of Cork and Shannon airports are now charged with making preparations to assume responsibility for the ownership and development of the airports. They are also empowered to undertake certain management and operational functions on an agreed basis with Dublin Airport Authority during the interim period.
Under the Act, before Cork or Shannon airports can become fully independent, the Minister for Fiance and I must be satisfied as to the financial and operational readiness of the airport authorities. Accordingly, each authority is required to prepare a comprehensive business plan and obtain our approval for these plans before any assets can be transferred. The three State airport authorities are continuing to work on the preparation of their business plans with the Dublin Airport Authority co-ordinating the process. In this context, there is a range of issues that need to be considered carefully. These include the unsustainable cost base at Shannon airport, the recent airport charges determination for Dublin Airport by the Commission for Aviation Regulation and the optimum mechanisms for the financing of the new terminal in Cork. These are complex issues that the airport authorities must consider carefully and, as I indicated previously, I have not imposed any artificial deadlines for the completion of this process. My Department will continue to liaise with the airports on the business planning timetable, taking account of the key issues that I have mentioned.
I look forward to the finalisation of the business planning process because of its importance to facilitating the development of dynamic, independent and financially sustainable State airports. The Government objective of airport restructuring must be achieved in a manner which underpins the financial sustainability of all three State airports.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
As to the treatment of debt upon transfer of assets, it is clear that the new Cork Airport facilities will benefit greatly the airport's users but the issue of its funding will have to be addressed. The way in which this issue is resolved will have to take account not only of what is commercially and financially feasible for Cork Airport, but also what is commercially and financially feasible for Dublin Airport. The future of Shannon and Cork as independent airports should have regard to the capacity of each airport to contribute to its own capital investment programme.
In this period of change for the State airport sector, I expect that the three airport boards will address the challenges and opportunities involved in restructuring under the State Airports Act 2004.