I move amendment No. 4:
In page 21, to delete lines 13 to 24.
The point arising is the last minute appeal on behalf of Cork Airport. We discussed the matter with the Minister and he has drawn our attention to the disadvantages, etc., that could arise.
The case we were making, the Minister may recall, is that Cork Airport is substantially bigger than Shannon Airport in terms of passenger numbers. I suppose there was an inherent hope that Cork Airport on its own could operate as a successful competing airport versus scepticism that, run as an appendage to Dublin, it would ever achieve the kind of freedom to which Cork people, as an independent republic of Cork, always aspire.
Cork Airport would rank in the top 20 airports in the United Kingdom, many of which operate independently. As the Minister explained to us on the previous occasion, there is the problem of what to do with the value of the terminal, at €168 million. I suppose we would hope that the Cork Airport Authority would not be dissolved, that the problem of the terminal might be resolved in a number of years and it could get on with being an independent airport competing against Shannon. In other words, I compliment the Minister on what he has done for Shannon. He has given it its independence. Senator Conway, in particular, is a great advocate of Shannon's independence in this House and we wish it well. I would like something similar for Cork.
I recognise the problem of what to do with a terminal which was built and opened at the wrong time, and is a millstone around somebody's neck. The DAA can take that millstone because it is a larger organisation. Could it remain with the DAA? Can we find somebody who might use it for some other purpose? Not being entirely facetious, when there was surplus terminal capacity in Kerry airport at one stage, the Klinge company of Killorglin used it for storage. I would seek to avoid it sitting there as a white elephant preventing the development of Cork.
That is the purpose of these amendments. It is as it were to ask the Minister, as he has been so skillful in accommodating the amendments in regard to the publication of directives, if he has a magic formula which would allow Cork the same administrative structure as Shannon, develop itself, attract new airlines and promote itself rather than be a branch of Dublin Airport.
With the break-up of national airport authorities - the British airports authority used to run seven, eight, nine or ten of them in the United Kingdom - airports are becoming separate stand-alone businesses competing with each other. This is happening in an environment, as the Minister mentioned on the previous occasion, where airlines are much more competitive than they used to be under the non-competing national airline model. I and many Cork people would like to see Cork participate to the full extent in that regard.
That is the purpose of our amendments, to not proceed with the dissolution of the Cork Airport Authority in the hope that sometime in the next couple of years we might work out a formula by which it could be a separate independent airport and help the entire economy. With it and Shannon Airport competing it would ensure that neither of them would have the kind of productivity problems that they had in the past, and they might be a little more careful about their investment plans as well.
That is the problem we were trying to solve. I see a much better future for Cork as an independent airport on the Shannon model, that the Minister has so persuasively advocated here and that we support. Could something be done for Cork along similar lines?