I thank Deputy Harty for his question. Shannon Airport is subject to very limited regulation by the Commission for Aviation Regulation, which sets charges for access to certain terminal facilities in compliance with an EU directive on ground-handling services. Unlike Dublin Airport, it is not subject to economic regulation. In the case of Dublin Airport, the regulator sets the maximum passenger charge that can be levied on airlines for the use of airport facilities and services due to its dominance in the market. Ireland's regional airports programme is intended to support necessary safety and security investments and activities by the smaller regional airports at Donegal, Knock, Kerry and Waterford to enable them to continue to contribute to enhanced regional connectivity. Under this programme, Exchequer funding is allocated through a number of schemes to cover capital and operational expenditure at those airports. Passenger numbers at these small airports are less than 1 million per annum. The support that is provided helps them to comply with international safety and security regulatory obligations. There are no plans to extend this programme to other airports.
Shannon Airport is a business within Shannon Group, which was established in 2014 following a Government decision to combine the airport with a restructured Shannon Development. The purpose of the group is to promote and facilitate air transport and aviation services in and around Shannon Airport and to optimise the return on its land and property and on its shareholdings in subsidiary companies. Shannon Group and its board, management and staff are to be commended for its achievements since then. For example, it increased its passenger numbers by approximately 25% to 1.75 million in 2017. It has increased its services and routes, successfully delivered the first phase of an investment programme in new and upgraded property solutions and increased its aviation cluster from approximately 40 companies with approximately 1,400 employees to approximately 60 companies with approximately 2,600 employees. It has restructured its Shannon Heritage business, invested in its various sites, improved its product for tourists and won contracts for the management of other sites, including the GPO visitor centre and Newbridge House. As Shannon Airport is a State-owned enterprise with a fully commercial mandate, it is not considered appropriate or necessary to bring it within the framework of the regional airports programme. It is a matter for Shannon Airport to ensure it operates within its mandate as efficiently and effectively as possible so it can cover its capital investments and operational expenditure.