Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (1629)

Pat the Cope Gallagher


1629. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the rationale for reviewing the funding model for regional airports; if the importance of the public service obligation, PSO, for regional airports such as Donegal Airport will be committed to; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that PSO funding is critical to the ongoing running and success of the airport and that the PSO model is in compliance with EU guidelines for regional airports; if the review will not undermine the viability of the funding model for Donegal Airport; if it will allow for sustainable growth and future expansion of the strategically important airport for the north-west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36464/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The importance of regional airports in facilitating connectivity and regional development is reflected in Ireland's National Aviation Policy (NAP) as well as Project Ireland 2040 and related Regional Economic and Spatial Strategies.

These policies will be central to developing any funding supports for regional airports, including Donegal Airport, under the new Regional Airports Programme (RAP) 2020 -2024 which is currently being developed by my Department. The current Programme expires at the end of this year.

As part of the preparations for the new Programme, I am seeking the views of key stakeholders and interested parties on the development of the new Programme and related policy. An Issues Paper for Consultation was published on my Department's website on 30 August and the closing date for submissions is 30 September 2019.

The aim of the consultation is to contribute to the design of optimum, cost effective measures in support of regional airports over the period of the next Programme, taking account of regional development, connectivity, sustainability and climate impacts. They must also take into account changes to State aid rules since the publication of the last Programme.

In terms of national connectivity, the current Programme also supports two domestic Public Service Obligation (PSO) air services. This scheme, which must comply with Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008, facilitates the operation of two domestic air services in Ireland; Donegal - Dublin and Kerry - Dublin. As you may be aware, a four year contract to operate services on these routes was awarded to Stobart Air in January 2018 and operates until 31 January 2022. The Department intends carrying out a mid-contract review on the performance of the PSOs , in keeping with practice on previous contracts, by the end of 2020.