Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Questions (66)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

162 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding plans to end the Shannon stopover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2119/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

As I have indicated to the House on a number of occasions, negotiations have begun between the EU Commission and the US authorities to establish an EU-US open aviation area agreement. The third round of those negotiations will take place in Washington next month. Officials of my Department met with the Aer Rianta unions on a number of occasions late last year to hear their views on this matter.

I have previously indicated that I consider it appropriate for any changes that occur in this area to be on a phased basis over a number of years.

In order to protect the Irish position, and with a view to securing new US routes for Aer Lingus, as well as taking account of the developing EU-US negotiations, I have authorized my officials to seek negotiations with the US so that both sides could discuss arrangements for any possible phased amendments to the Ireland-US bilateral agreement. Negotiations have not yet commenced.

Last week, I wrote to SIPTU and ICTU regarding,inter alia, the dual gateway status of Shannon and I confirmed my commitment to renew direct engagement with them to seek to work out a means of best addressing the challenges arising for Shannon Airport. I will also be consulting further with the board designate of Shannon airport about this issue.