Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (43)

Cathal Crowe


43. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the supports in place for Shannon Airport. [25668/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I would like to thank the Deputy for his question in relation to Shannon Airport. I am aware of the challenges that Shannon Airport and indeed all of our airports are currently facing and will continue to face over the coming months as the country adjusts to the new reality of living alongside Covid-19.

As the Deputy is aware, Shannon Airport is part of Shannon Group. Myself and my colleague Minister Eamon Ryan have had engagements with the Chief Executive of Shannon Group and have also held a meeting with the unions who represent staff at the airport. We are therefore fully aware of the challenges faced by the company including Shannon Airport.

In order to assist businesses in facing the challenges of Covid-19 and to further protect employment, the Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for companies of all sizes, including those in the aviation sector, which includes the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) (and its predecessor the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme), a waiver of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities. Shannon Group is availing of these supports which are designed to assist businesses, including our airports, in terms of the management of their companies during this unprecedented time.

The Aviation Recovery Taskforce set out recommendations for consideration by Ministers and Government on what needs to be done to assist the Irish aviation sector to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The Taskforce report contains a number of recommendations on how to support Irish aviation, which has been particularly badly hit by the crisis. The recommendations include measures to sustain the industry for so long as travel restrictions are in place and also measures to help stimulate a return to growth, when the time is right. The Government has already implemented several recommendations, including the publication of safe air travel protocols and the progression of the European slot rule waiver for airlines in consultation with the European Commission. The wage subsidy scheme was also extended to April 2021.

The other recommendations, including further targeted financial supports to help reinstate connectivity (including for Shannon Airport), regional development and sustainability in the sector are being examined by my Department.

The Government’s recently published Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19 specifically addresses the approach to international travel and proposes that Ireland will broadly support the European Commission’s recently published proposal to promote a common approach to travel restrictions and movement within the EU/EEA. This proposal will now be considered by the Council of Ministers.

As already mentioned, Shannon Airport is part of Shannon Group, which operates in both the aviation and tourism sectors and as such has been particularly severely affected by the impact by Covid19. For this reason I committed to undertaking an examination of Shannon Group. This review is currently underway in my Department and I will bring recommendations to Government in this regard in order to secure the future of the company.

It is my intention that the Company, including Shannon Airport, will be well positioned for the future particularly given the importance of Shannon Airport to the economy of the Midwest region and indeed nationally.