Other Questions

Job Creation

Bernard Durkan


62. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the full extent of employment generated by the sporting sector annually over the past five years to date; the extent to which opportunities arise for further enhancement leading to job creation throughout the sector; steps he plans to take the effect of which would be economic resurgence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40808/13]

Bernard Durkan


655. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which economic activity generated through sport and recreation, including job creation, has developed in each of the past five years to date; the extent to which the level of employment generated throughout may be improved in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41129/13]

Bernard Durkan


656. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he expects sporting activity or associated sectors to generate economic activity resulting in a contribution towards economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41130/13]

Bernard Durkan


657. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which economic expansion may benefit from sport-associated activity; if he will predict the future annual job creating potential arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41131/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 655 to 657, inclusive, together.

These questions relate to employment and economic benefit from the sports sector. Sport makes a significant contribution to the economy and is an important driver of growth and employment. The sports sector's contribution to the economy includes sports tourism, ticket sales, subscriptions and the cost of playing sport, together with the purchase of sports equipment and an economic value of time given by volunteers. The report Assessment of Economic Impact of Sport in Ireland, which was prepared for the Irish Sports Council in 2010, indicates that sport and sport-related activities support more than 38,000 full-time-equivalent jobs.

Grants provided by my Department for capital projects support employment. For example, my officials have calculated that the €13.5 million in the sports capital subhead in 2013 will support almost 600 jobs in the construction and related sectors in 2013. Furthermore, the Deputy will appreciate that as a large proportion of the sports capital programme, SCP, spending is directed at grantees in rural areas where alternative employment opportunities may not be readily available, the importance of SCP spending for rural employment is particularly significant.

The ongoing development of facilities at the National Sports Campus is also supporting construction jobs and will provide jobs in the future for the operation of the campus facilities when completed. In addition, grant funding provided through the Irish Sports Council for the national governing bodies of sport supports a large number of jobs throughout the country.

There is a very extensive financial dividend to be obtained through the success of major sporting events, particularly those with an international dimension. Not only does sports tourism bring revenue and boost the economy, it helps support jobs. The programme for Government includes a commitment that event tourism will be prioritised in order to continue to bring major events to Ireland.

Could I ask the Minister of State the extent to which the Department continues to evaluate the sporting sector with a view to identifying specific areas where an intervention or further support might bring about the sort of results that are required at this time in terms of economic recovery? Could I further ask him if in fact in the course of any evaluation undertaken in the past, particular issues have arisen which could be used to a greater extent to promote the national image through the sporting sector?

In 2012 a total of 35,000 people came to Dublin for the Notre Dame versus Navy American football game. Ticket sales were worth €100,000. Revenue was created for the city through spending in taxis, restaurants and pubs, and that resulted in much employment.

A survey carried out by DKM economic consultants for the Department indicated that every €57,000 spent on construction supports one job, and for every €1 million of sports capital funding 44 jobs are created in the construction and related sectors. The €13.5 million provided in the sports capital subhead will create 600 jobs. Another statistic of note is that every €1 million spent on the local authority swimming pool programme creates 48 jobs. In 2013, we have put funding in place that will create a further 270 jobs. It is possible to create jobs in the sporting sector.

That is why I am always saying to the Government that the more sports capital and funding for facilities it can make available, the more badly wanted employment can be created throughout the country.

I thank the Minister of State for his answer. I recently attended a briefing given by the Federation of Irish Sport. It made a very compelling case that 150 jobs could be created for the sum of €4.85 million, which is very small in overall budgetary terms. There is long-standing evidence that sport and exercise can reduce expenditure in the health service and other areas. For example, it costs €270,000 to detain a young person for a year in Oberstown. For €15,000, the FAI organised late-night leagues that led to a 49% reduction in Garda call-outs.

There is great concern over large increases in rates pertaining to the Aviva and Croke Park stadiums. The money in question could deliver services for communities. Has the Minister of State considered this or met any of the organisations in question?

The rates issue is serious and one that needs to be dealt with at Government level. It is not part of our brief or responsibility. It is, however, a matter that I am concerned about because the sporting facilities in question are major. The burden to which Deputy McLellan is referring will create a major problem.

With regard to the question by Deputy Durkan and that of Deputy McLellan, we never put a monetary value on volunteerism in this country; we forget about it. There would not be soccer, Gaelic games, rugby or any other sport but for volunteers giving of their time freely. The players in last Saturday's all-Ireland hurling final did not start at the top but at the bottom. There were people working with them seven days per week and there were people selling tickets and raising funding for their clubs. We sometimes do not take that into consideration. It is, therefore, important to obtain from the Government any funding that can be got for sport. As the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, and Minister of State, Deputy Alan Kelly will tell one, sport and tourism are sometimes the sectors creating jobs and employment, yet they are sometimes the first hit when there is a crisis in the economy. This should not be the case. Now, at a time of economic crisis, we should be getting further funding for sport. This creates employment and it is good for the economy.

Does the Minister of State want to put his foot down and talk to the Taoiseach?

Approximately two years ago, we had a conversation here about the adventure sports market. In the past few years, we have seen that market absolutely explode, which is great for the economy. However, there is now talk of regulation. I caution against any unnecessary regulation that could have an impact on the market.

Could I have an update on our bid for hosting the Rugby World Cup?

On the hosting of the Rugby World Cup, we recently had meetings with the IRFU. Fáilte Ireland has supported it with some funding to carry out a feasibility study. We will be meeting the IRFU shortly and I hope it will have an update in this regard. I would love to see the Rugby World Cup in Ireland. We are well capable of hosting the event. We should put some funding aside now to ensure we will be able to make our bid and bring the event to the country. Through the Volvo Ocean Race and many other national major events, we have shown we are well capable of hosting events of the kind in question.

With regard to adventure activity, the Deputy is quite correct. Adventure tourists have turned up in my area, the west of Ireland, in particular. It has the natural beauty, water, facilities, walks and the Greenway. When adventure tourists come to the country, they spend more than any other tourists because they are physically fit, go out for dinner and enjoy themselves. They stay in a given area. I hope that Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland put more resources into this area. We have the natural resources and infrastructure and now need to try to bring more people into the country.

Has any planning been undertaken to co-ordinate the efforts of the tourism and sporting sectors with a view to encouraging and capitalising on future events and utilising them as a means of improving the economy, bringing more people into the respective sectors and generating employment?

As Deputies know, for any major sports event to be held in the country, the national sports body concerned must issue an invitation. If it is the soccer World Cup, the FAI must issue an invitation; if it is the rugby World Cup, the IRFU has to issue an invitation and so forth. However, Fáilte Ireland has a section that deals with bringing international events to the country and during the years it has always responded well. The Fáilte Ireland team has worked very well with various sports organisations, as well as other types of organisation, to bring international events to the country. It has worked with them in assisting with feasibility studies and providing financial support. I agree with Deputy Bernard J. Durkan that if any sports organisation believes there is an opportunity to bring a major event to the country, it should contact Fáilte Ireland or my Department and it will be offered every available support. There are many international events that could be hosted in the country. Hosting international rugby games in Dublin, for example, generates a significant amount of revenue for the city. For the All-Ireland finals over the last few weekends there was not a hotel bed to be found in Dublin. Sports events attract large numbers of visitors and often such short-term visitors spend more money than other tourists.

I add my voice to this very interesting discussion on the potential to bring new people into the State through supporting sports organisations. In my own community in Malahide we hosted a one-day international cricket game between Ireland and England which was a tremendous success, with 10,000 to 11,000 people descending on Malahide. The game was played in a purpose-built, temporary stadium at Malahide Cricket Club. The Ministers were present on the day and very impressed. The potential to develop such venues and attract entirely new people to Ireland for cricket games on a regular basis is enormous and could yield substantial returns for the State and local businesses.

I agree with the Deputy. Who would have thought ten years ago that we could host such a one-day event in Dublin? It was great to see it happening and I would like to see more events like it taking place. Hosting any international event sends the very strong message that we are well capable of hosting such events. It also sends a message about what we have to offer. When people come to this country for such events, they see what we have to offer. When given the opportunity, we can compete with the best, with facilities such as the Aviva Stadium, Croke Park and others. Where we have the facilities, we are well capable of hosting events. In that context, I must compliment the GAA. Where would one see in any other country in the world the national game bringing 82,500 people into a single stadium? The GAA is a credit to the country. It brought 82,500 to Croke Park, not once, not twice but three times in three weeks. That is a credit to the organisation and the country.

Public Transport Issues

Alan Farrell


63. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on proposals to tender out the local and orbital public service obligation bus services currently operated by Dublin Bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40789/13]

Eoghan Murphy


73. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the proposals for the tendering out of PSO bus services as proposed by the National Transport Authority. [40529/13]

Richard Boyd Barrett


78. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to tender out Bus Éireann routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40887/13]

Andrew Doyle


81. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he believes commuters and regional areas in the commuter belt and greater Dublin area will benefit as a result of the tendering out of particular routes and public service obligation, PSO, routes when the current contract expires; if the next tendering phase will result in a transparent decision making process; if he will outline the ramifications for particular routes in County Wicklow (details supplied) as a result of the competition in public transport in the bus market as proposed by the National Transport Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40790/13]

Olivia Mitchell


102. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the proposals for the tendering out of public service obligation bus services as proposed by the National Transport Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40786/13]

Thomas P. Broughan


107. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if local authorities, commuters and residents' associations will have an input in the future design of the Dublin Bus route network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40433/13]

Jonathan O'Brien


124. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the actions he has taken to investigate the effects of allowing private operators to compete for routes with Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann on overall service and its social obligations. [40910/13]

Gerry Adams


637. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to privatise Bus Éireann routes in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40793/13]

Seán Kyne


650. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the liberalising of bus routes will be extended beyond those locations listed in the public consultation document launched recently. [41111/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 73, 78, 81, 102, 107, 124, 637 and 650 together.

These questions relate to the future provision of public service obligation bus services. I refer the Deputies to my response to Priority Question No. 4 today.

It would be helpful if the Minister’s reply to Question No. 4 was circulated to Members. Although I was listening attentively to it, I cannot recall all of it.

For some years Fine Gael has earmarked the opening up of the bus market and PSOs. As this is contained in the programme for Government, I cannot see how anyone would be particularly surprised by this step. Given that the area in question accounts for only 10% of the market, one could almost say this is a trial of the future tendering of these licences. In the Dublin North constituency there are three bus routes. The most important route is the No. 102, which is an orbital service serving Dublin Airport and Sutton and connects to DART services in Malahide and Sutton. It effectively connects the area with the eastern seaboard. The No. 33A and No. 33B services take in Portrane which is not served by bus routes but is served by train services. The other service being examined is the one that serves the northern Dublin commuter towns of Skerries, Rush and Balbriggan. Is it possible to extend these public service licences to other operators to ensure there is not a stymying of the potential for the extension of routes? Malahide and other towns in the area have been vying for orbital services for many years and the National Transport Authority has stood in their way.

I am aware of one licence application for a feeder service to Malahide DART station which was refused by the NTA. Generally, if there is an existing publicly subvented service, the NTA will not permit another operator to compete with that service. The view is taken that if the service is necessary and socially desirable but not profitable, it is subvented. If another operator were to come in, it could undermine the subvention. It is an imperfect arrangement. Much as we would love to believe the transport planners know everything and get it right, they do not always and people do not behave the way computer models say they are supposed to.

The public consultation began on 11 September. The current contracts for the Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann services in question were supposed to expire at the end of 2014, but the NTA is proposing to extend them for a further two years when it will tender some of them.

This is just another way of talking about privatisation if an adequate subsidy is not given to the public transport provider. Historically, even before the Government took office, we have not given adequate subsidies to public transport services. The cuts the Minister is imposing on the subvention will force the privatisation of bus services and the degrading of public transport services. We have one of the lowest public transport subsidies anywhere in Europe. All other European countries give a higher subvention to public transport services by a wider mile than we do. They understand it is a necessary and vital infrastructure for moving people around, as well as being a public service.

The consequence is that Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann are under pressure to discontinue or significantly downgrade unprofitable routes. The private sector is interested only in cherrypicking the most profitable routes. It is not the way forward. We in Dún Laoghaire have learned, to our cost, with the loss of many bus services as we pushed towards privatisation, that it is not working.

When one makes comparisons it is important to compare like with like. Public transport systems that have underground elements to them, such as the Paris Metro or the London Underground, must have more subvention because running underground is so expensive. Had we been able to go down the route of running underground systems, much more subvention would have been required.

One must bear in mind that when we discuss subvention in Ireland we refer only to the public service obligation, PSO, element of it. On top of that there are capital grants. Therefore comparisons between subvention in Dublin or the rest of Ireland with that in other countries is very often inaccurate because it includes only part of our subsidy. We also give very large capital grants to Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann which are not included in the subvention figures. It is important to compare like with like. Tendering includes a subvention. That is the point of tendering with PSO. The companies tendering for a contract are asked to provide as good a service as possible for the amount of money available.

I congratulate the Minister on grasping the nettle on this proposal to open up the bus market. It has been in the pot for a very long time and I am very pleased to see it come to the boil at last, albeit in a more limited way than I would like. For that reason I regret it is happening when the market is contracting. It would have been so much easier if this had happened ten years ago when the demand for transport was expanding. As a result of that the bundle of networks is limited in the initial stage. Are the new contracts envisaged as a pilot scheme to test the proposition that the competitive tendering process will give us a service that is cheaper, more efficient and better for the consumer and taxpayer? Some people have expressed concern about it in other areas but of the kind of model envisaged here, London is the nearest one. I am very familiar with the services there. Competitive tendering has been hugely successful and the demand for travel has almost doubled on the London buses.

I note the Deputy's comments and in her previous role as transport spokesperson and a member of the transport committee she took a very active interest in this area. The NTMA's proposal is to tender out some contracts from the end of 2016, although they would have to be awarded some time before that. They would run for five years until 2021. I cannot look into a crystal ball and say what will happen beyond that. Many things can change in the world between now and then. We should not assume that the contracts will go to non-State operators. It is open to Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann to tender for those contracts. Private operators I have met always say they can provide a better service for the same price. Most of us will have met them and the groups which represent them. This is an opportunity to test them out, call their bluff and see if that is the case.

I listened to the Minister's earlier response to Deputy Dooley's priority question on this subject. Had the Minister's Government had a majority, we would be heading down a serious route of privatisation, much further then we are going. The Minister has made it very clear that he and his party are in favour of privatisation of the bus services. The incremental privatisation has already started. We are now talking about a further 10% on top of the privatisation that has already taken place across the services.

I do not know what the Minister's Labour Party colleagues are doing to stop this, but it is clear that many of these private companies will cherry-pick the services they will provide. They have already done so with some services to parts of the country. Cherry-picking will take place and we will not get a better service. I do not accept for a minute that anybody can believe we will get a better bus service if services are privatised.

The model proposed by the NTA, which is very similar to the Transport for London model, does not allow for cherry-picking. These are publicly subvented services and there is no competition. Once they exist, the operators are given a bundle of routes and are effectively given a subvented monopoly on those routes. This does not allow for cherry-picking. One could argue that currently around the country, in the inter-city market where there is significant competition, private operators are going in where they think they can make the most money. This happens where there are three or four companies on the same route. This is something very different: the NTA identifies a bundle of routes and decides there can be only one operator on those routes. Therefore, cherry-picking is not an option under this model.

I am mostly in favour of tendering for the PSO bus services, particularly where it leads to better services and a cheaper cost to the State. If one wants to call that privatisation, that is fine, but there is no need to mislead the people. These operators are still operating public routes and a public service.

To endorse Deputy Olivia Mitchell's comments, I would like to clarify what the Minister meant when he said "until 2021". Did he mean it was only 10% of the PSO market until 2021, or will we see further percentages and further routes being put up for tender before that date?

As I mentioned earlier, this is a determination to be made by the NTA. The current proposal is that approximately 10% of routes will be tendered, with that contract coming into force at the end of 2016. I cannot predict what will happen beyond that or beyond 2021.

I thank the Minister for his responses to the supplementary questions. The timing of the tendering of the PSO for Dublin Bus route 102 is difficult, given the services now about to launch in Malahide, which are starting on 29 October. If we see another private operator enter the market on the same route or part of the route, what effect will that have on the most recently awarded licence? The Minister has said the private operators will be unable to cherry-pick. However, if additional routes spring up, passengers may use these services because of the increased capacity and level of service provided by these private operators, who may undercut the market with reduced fares. Is it possible that could happen?

This may not be an answer to the Deputy's question, but the whole objective of public transport policy is to ensure that more people have access to and use public transport than currently. We have seen some very good success stories and have seen examples of where things have not worked very well in this country. The most obvious example is the Luas, which requires no operating subvention. It will carry over 30 million passengers this year, more than Irish Rail and our airports, State and regional, combined. There are great success stories, but other attempts have not been so successful. However, the objective must always be to ensure that more people have access to public transport, that it works well and that the numbers using it increase. I do not believe people are all that bothered about who operates it. People in here may be concerned, but the average passenger is not. Nobody has ever told me he or she is annoyed that the Luas is not run by a State company. People are happy with the service. Nobody has said the reverse either in the context of Bus Éireann or Dublin Bus.

The Minister must never have met the unions so.

The Luas cost us a lot of money initially.

There were massive overruns precisely because of private companies extorting the process. I agree the Luas is a success, so why should the benefits not come back directly to us? I do not see why we should outsource or privatise it. From my experience with the 46A in Dún Laoghaire I know a game is played whereby people state more people access a service because services have been rationalised. Elderly people and particular communities lost services provided by other small bus routes to expand the service in the more profitable areas where more customers could be found. It should not be either-or; it should not be that we increase numbers at the expense of losing small bus services to little rural areas, or particular estates or communities. It should be both and this will not happen where the model moves towards privatisation. It will all be about where we can get the biggest numbers and pack the buses the most and not providing a service where there may not be as many passengers but where it is vitally needed by those communities or transport users.

In part I agree with the Deputy. The objective is to increase the number of people using public transport overall and not to displace them from one bus route to another. Nothing is achieved by this. On this point I certainly agree with the Deputy. To clarify, the Luas is not profitable but it covers its own operating costs and does not require an operating subvention. The fares cover its operating costs fully which is a considerable achievement for a light railway. The other service mentioned by the Deputy, the 46A, does not do so. Despite the fact it is a high-frequency bus route used by many people who pay their fares it loses money and there is a problem in this regard.

State Airports

Pat Breen


64. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding legislation to establish the Shannon group plc; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40507/13]

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy


108. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding legislation to merge Shannon Airport Authority and Shannon Development. [40504/13]

Michelle Mulherin


144. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding legislation to merge Shannon Airport Authority and Shannon Development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40528/13]

Dara Calleary


643. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the international aviation centre of excellence will be established at Shannon Airport, his views on the number of jobs it can support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33578/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64, 108, 144 and 643 together.

These questions relate to the Shannon group. As the Deputies will be aware, at its meeting on 23 July the Government approved the heads, or general scheme, of the Shannon aviation services and miscellaneous provisions Bill which provides for the creation of the new Shannon group entity, incorporating the Shannon Airport Authority, SAA, and a restructured Shannon Development. The heads are now with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting of the Bill. I also forwarded the heads of the Bill to the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications for any views the committee may have, and where appropriate these can be incorporated into the drafting process. The heads are posted on the Department’s website. The timescale for publication of the Bill will largely depend on the drafting process and I remain hopeful we can publish and proceed with enactment in the current Dáil session although I recognise this will be challenging.

At its core, the Bill will provide for SAA and Shannon Development under a unified management structure to facilitate renewed passenger growth and to maximise the potential of the airport facilities at Shannon and of the land bank and properties in the adjacent Shannon free zone for development, growth and jobs, particularly in aviation-related services. The business development task force report of last November pointed to the real opportunities to develop and grow a specialist employment hub for aviation-related services, building on the existing industry cluster in Shannon which already employs more than 1,600 people. Over a five-year period, the task force estimated that an expanded aviation services centre at Shannon could create over 3,000 new jobs.

A key driver for these initiatives was the dramatic fall in passenger traffic at Shannon airport since 2007 and the need to restructure Shannon Development. Based on passenger numbers to the end of August and projections for the remainder of the year, it is expected the first key objective of the independent airport authority, namely to halt the slide in traffic, will be secured this year. This will be a major achievement for the board and new management team in Shannon and the employees at the airport. I am confident they will build on this achievement and secure renewed growth in the years ahead.

I compliment the Minister on his actions with regard to the airport. Since he took over the transport portfolio passenger figures at the airport have improved, after years of decline.

This is the third consecutive month there is growth at the airport, which is extremely important and is directly due to the policy of the Minister and the Government. I compliment the chairperson of the Shannon Airport Authority, Ms Rose Hynes, and the CEO, Mr. Neil Pakey, on the work they have done so far.

This legislation is extremely important for the airport. New flights have been secured this year and there will also be new flights next year, with Aer Lingus serving the destination of Shannon all year round from New York and Boston. It is a matter of sustaining and building, as the Minister rightly said. The legislation is particularly important in regard to aviation-related industries, as the Minister noted in his reply. There is much work to be done in developing the greenfield site at the Shannon free zone. I ask the Minister to, if at all possible, fast-track the legislation. It is the final piece of the jigsaw and the current position is hindering the chances of getting aviation-related industry into the airport. There are already 33 companies there and this is vital for the airport going forward.

I acknowledge the Deputy's concerns and I am doing my very best in that regard. I am starting on the Road Traffic Bill today, the Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, is finishing off the Taxi Regulation Bill and the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, will be proceeding with the Sport Ireland Bill quite soon. Shannon Development is right up there among the pieces of legislation we want to get through in the session, and while there is a huge amount of legislation coming through the Dáil and Seanad at the moment, we will do our very best.

I welcome the progress being made to sort out the sustainable future of Shannon Airport, which is very important for the region. It needed attention and that attention is being given. However, I am otherwise concerned about the timing of legislation. I say this in the context of the report the Minister has signed up to with the board of management of Knock Airport, given we are coming to the budget and the report is not published yet. There was to be a report last June giving a plan of action in order that Knock's position could be safeguarded, because it will be impacted by Shannon from a competition point of view.

That is the situation in regard to Knock. First, when will we have that report? Second, is the Minister prepared to implement in full the recommendations of that report to secure the future of Knock Airport as he is doing for Shannon Airport?

I do not have the report yet and I am not even sure if it is completed. I know the working group has done a lot of work on it already and I expect to see it quite soon, certainly in the next few weeks.

I cannot commit to implementing recommendations I have not seen. I expect that the recommendations will not all be directed at my Department but also at other Departments and other groups, and I cannot speak on their behalf. However, I share the Deputy's desire to safeguard Knock Airport, which provides very important access to Connacht and the west of Ireland region. Of course, there will be limitations to that. For example, no State aid is being provided to Shannon and everything it does, it has to do with the money it makes from its passengers and its landbank. Knock is in a different situation. It does receive State aid and it does get grants from the taxpayer, although it does so under particular European state aid rules that have to be adhered to.

The Minister's Government went ahead with the dismantling of the Shannon company. Unfortunately, when he separated out Shannon, the Minister made very significant promises about putting in place a new company that would incorporate the airport and SFADCo. While most of the employees have been transferred out of SFADCo, some still remain. That organisation is no longer in a position to carry out the remit that was originally provided to it and the Minister is now telling us the legislation will, at best, be coming forward towards the end of this session. I do not believe that is acceptable, either to the people who are directly affected or to the people who have now been put in charge of the airport, who are effectively hamstrung in their ability to create the kind of external employment outside of the confines the Minister talked about. Shannon Development has been obliterated and the Minister has not succeeded in bringing forward appropriate legislation to allow Shannon Airport to develop.

The Minister will be aware that his party in government made very significant promises around Lynx Cargo. It was a catch-cry of its candidates in the constituency that a cargo facility was going to be built and paid for by the State.

That has not happened, despite the promises that were made. Aer Lingus's maintenance division has moved its facilities to Dublin to free up a hangar for Transaero, which was supposed to provide a considerable increase in employment in the area of aircraft maintenance. I understand those plans have now been shelved.

There has been a great deal of glossing over the separation process. The Minister's decision to separate Shannon was based on projections of an increase of 500,000 passengers in the first year of its operation as an independent entity. That has not materialised. While the Minister and his representatives in the region will attempt to draw a broad brush over the issue, the facts of the matter, when one drills down into the details, are somewhat askew in regard to the promises he made.

As the Deputy rightly pointed out, a great deal can be achieved without legislation. Already, for example, the staff have transferred, there is a common board and a new chief executive officer has been appointed. The decline in passenger numbers has halted and numbers are starting to recover. Shannon Group is on course to break even financially this year, which is a major achievement by the management, board and staff. I did not expect them to achieve it in year one, anticipating instead that it would take at least three years. It is important to acknowledge that.

I will be very honest with the Deputy. I love the job the Taoiseach has entrusted to me, but the most frustrating aspect of being in government is that it takes a long time to get things done. I, too, am frustrated that the legislation is taking so long. I assure the Deputy that I will do my best to progress it as quickly as I can.

I thank the Minister for his response. I am disappointed that we will have to wait so long before debating the legislation. Shannon Airport was for many years the backbone of the west in the context of the passenger numbers that passed through it. There has been a massive decline in those numbers in recent years. The Minister indicated that no state aid is assigned to Shannon. Does he envisage any such aid at any point in the future should the airport run into problems? There are not many airlines in Europe that do not receive some type of state support.

In regard to new businesses and so on, can the Minister give some indication of how his Department proposes to promote Shannon, attract new businesses and airlines and so on? Is there any prospect of other airlines coming into Shannon?

When I talk about state aid I am referring either to Government grants, preferential loans or subsidies. No such aid is envisaged for Shannon, nor would it be permitted under European law. There are good reasons for that. We have had a very bad history across Europe of governments using the people's money to subsidise one business or entity against another. This usually ends up with both requiring money from the state and the taxpayer the ultimate loser. State aid can only be given under strict EU rules and for particular reasons. In the case of airports, it might apply to those in isolated regions where there is no commercially viable alternative, as might be the case, for instance, in Donegal, Knock, Waterford or Kerry. The provision of such support for Shannon would require state aid clearance, which I do not expect we would get.

So far this year, new services from Shannon include Aer Lingus to Faro, United Airlines to Chicago, US Airways to Philadelphia, Flybe to Glasgow and Ryanair to Alicante. The company is in negotiations with a number of airlines, both long-haul and short-haul, regarding the provision of additional services. Those negotiations are commercially sensitive and it would not be appropriate for me to discuss them.

The Minister's indication that there will be no state aid for Shannon points us in the wrong direction. We are all hopeful that the new company at Shannon will be able to sustain itself. The airport's success has not come about by accident but as a result of the Government's using its authority to direct that certain things be done. Action in this regard is not being taken by some external agency or other but by the State. It is this very favourable position which could potentially adversely affect Knock, and that is why we need a report sooner rather than later.

The Government owns Shannon Airport and has, therefore, the capacity to make directions in regard to it. We cannot make directions in respect of an airport that is not owned by the State. Shannon will be required to sustain itself; that was the case from day one. It was always made clear that it would have to pay its own way without state aid.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.