I propose to take QuestionsNos. 109 and 344 together.
I am satisfied that the Government decision of July last to restructure Aer Rianta will be implemented within the timeframe originally envisaged for this project. As I said in response to questions a few weeks ago in this House, there are significant technical and legal issues which my Department and its advisers are working through in conjunction with Aer Rianta management and its advisers. We want to ensure, in accordance with the Government decision, that the new independent Shannon and Cork airport authorities commence business with a fresh start while at the same time ensuring that Dublin Airport, which is the country's main metropolitan gateway, is also positioned to develop and grow to meet the increasing travel demands of our business and tourism sectors.
The articles in the media on 21 February last referred to a confidential document drawn up by my Department for the purpose of advancing the implementation of this important, strategic and of course complex project. The project steering group which comprises officials of my Department and the Department of Finance, Aer Rianta management and advisers, is evaluating the technical, operational and commercial aspects of the approach proposed in that document. This exercise includes the prompt finalisation of revised financial projections for each of the three State airports as stand-alone entities. Obviously, it is essential that each of the new airport authorities would have sound opening balance sheets and that each would be able to trade successfully on a commercial basis in the future. As I have emphasised on numerous previous occasions, however, the preparation of these revised and updated financial projections will not in any way inhibit the commercial freedom and responsibility of the new authorities, when formally established, to develop strategic business plans for each of the three airports.
While no decisions have yet been taken on the precise methodology to give effect to the Government decision, the approach being explored by the steering group would involve the transfer of Shannon and Cork airports out of Aer Rianta by way of a distribution in specie. Under this approach, the transfers would take place on a phased basis as the reserves of the parent company permit. It would be an objective of this approach to keep the timescale associated with the phased transfers to the minimum and, in this regard, other financial options for allocating airport assets among the three airports are also being examined. In this regard also, the issue of Aer Rianta's main subsidiaries such as Aer Rianta International and the Great Southern hotels group is being carefully examined. Deputies will appreciate that while this important work is ongoing, it would not be appropriate for me to speculate on or pre-empt the outcome.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
In tandem with this work, my Department is also well advanced with the drafting of the necessary amending legislation to give effect to the restructuring. At this stage, it is not envisaged that the amending legislation will dictate the specific methodology which is ultimately decided upon to effect the restructuring. Instead, it will contain enabling provisions which will preserve a degree of flexibility and ensure that optimum mechanisms, which are in the best interests of each of the new independent airport authorities, are employed. The enactment of the amending legislation, which I believe will be achieved before the summer, will also enable the establishment of the three new boards for the State airports on a formal, statutory basis.
Both I and my Department are also maintaining the ongoing process of full engagement with the Aer Rianta unions to deal with issues of concern to workers arising from the implementation of the Government decision. When the revised financial projections for the three airports which I referred to earlier are completed, I have already confirmed my willingness to share key financial information with the unions in the context of the current engagement process being facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission before legislation is finalised. As Deputies are aware, I have also conveyed assurances and clarifications about the protection of the current terms and conditions of employment of Aer Rianta workers in the context of the three new independent airport authorities when established.