I move amendment No. 1:
In page 13, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following subsection:
"(3) The headquarters of the company shall be located at, or close to, Shannon Airport, County Clare.".
This amendment should not come as a surprise to the Minister or to the Government. A similar amendment was tabled by Deputy O'Malley during a debate of a select committee of the other House. It was debated and rejected by the Government. I invited the Minister, during my Second Stage contribution, to give an assurance that he would incorporate in the legislation a requirement to locate the head office of the Irish Aviation Authority at Shannon or close to Shannon. I did that deliberately because its location would be valuable and significant to the area, given current events in the region.
I am anxious that the head office should be located in Shannon. I invited the Minister to include in the legislation a requirement that it should be located there for no other reason than for the benefit of the area. If the Minister had acceded to my request it would not have been a contentious issue and it would have gone through without difficulty. The Government was given adequate notice about this matter during the discussion of the select committee of the other House. I told the Minister my wish during the Second Stage debate. The Minister responded to the debate but he did not deal with my request. That reluctance on the part of the Minister suggests that the Government is rejecting the idea of locating the head office at Shannon.
There are valid reasons Shannon is the ideal location for the head office of the Irish Aviation Authority. First, more than half the staff employed by the Authority work and reside in the Shannon region. In fact, the service provided at Shannon and Ballygirreen is the hub of an area of control which covers the west, the north and the Atlantic. As a result, this should be the location for the head office. Senator Daly, in his Second Stage speech, disagreed with my suggestion and the Minister confirmed his acceptance of Senator Daly's disagreement. Senator Daly made the point that the location of a head office is never included in legislation. Again, the Minister agreed.
Senator Mooney echoed my sentiments about the research facilities available to us. As a Member of this House I did not have anyone available to me whom I could ask to research legislation of the last ten years to check if an Act contained provision for the location of a head office in a particular place. Senator Mooney largely agreed with my point about the absence of research facilities.
When the Shannon Estuarial Authority legislation was introduced in this House Limerick was designated as the head office for that proposed body. I vividly recall its designation because there was a further requirement that the chairman of the proposed Authority should live within 50 miles of the head office. There was a lengthy debate on how the miles were to be measured. If the distance was 50 miles as the crow flies, he could be from Tubbercurry, County Sligo, but if it was miles by road the then chairman of Clare County Council, Mr. Seán Keating, from Kilbaha could not be chairman of the body.
Therefore, it is wrong to say no legislation contained a provision to designate a place for the head office of an authority or body. Also during my time here another place was designated as the head office for Údarás na Gaeltachta. Therefore, the response to this amendment should not be that this is never put into legislation because those two cases are examples in which it was done. If I had the research facilities for which I voted and which people on the other side of the House voted two weeks ago to deny me I would have several other examples to justify my argument.
It is necessary to designate and put into law that Shannon should be the headquarters of the Irish Aviation Authority because of the economy of that area. It may be said that although it may not be in the legislation the Minister or the Government will influence the decision and that the board of the Authority will look favourably on the proposal to locate the head office in Shannon. The experience with semi-State bodies in the Shannon area, particularly with Aer Lingus, is one of constant withdrawal. As one who lived in that area I have been conscious of that withdrawal through the 1950s up to today.
The philosophy behind the withdrawal is encapsulated in an air service provided from Dublin to Shannon each evening at 10.20 p.m. I have often used that service. I would alight from the aeroplane and would only have reached the car park when it would have taken off to return to Dublin empty because the crew would not remain in Shannon. That is one example of why Aer Lingus is in trouble.
The attitude has always been to withdraw from the area. I am satisfied there is a grave risk that, unless we enshrine it in legislation, an excuse will be found by the board and senior executives of this body to locate in Dublin and further staff will be withdrawn from Shannon over a lengthy period. I therefore propose that the head office of the Authority is located at Shannon Airport. I have advanced my reasons; there are others, perhaps contentious ones, I could also advance. Shannon is the natural location and will, for the foreseeable future, be the hub of the operations of this body. It is logical to locate it there. Because of the experience with other semi-State bodies in the area it is necessary to enshrine this in legislation.