Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (230)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


230. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether it is essential for County Cork to achieve its growth targets within the Ireland 2040 document to have a viable international airport; and the way in which he plans to ensure Cork Airport, as the second largest airport, can be supported, to safeguard the jobs within the airport and to ensure the viability of the airport on a continuous basis. [26582/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I would like to thank the Deputy for his question in relation to Cork Airport.

Growth targets for all Irish airports as envisaged in Project Ireland 2040 and the National Development Plan 2018 – 2027, have been and will continue to be severely impacted by Covid-19. This is true for airports right around the world.

As the Deputy is aware, Cork Airport is an autonomous business unit within the daa. I have met with the daa and have been updated on the challenges facing daa Group, including Cork Airport. Minister of State Naughton has also recently met with the Managing Director of Cork Airport.

In order to assist businesses in facing the challenges of Covid-19 and 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), extended until April 2021, commercial rates waiver and deferred tax liabilities. daa 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 badly affected by the almost complete shutdown of international air travel. 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 extension of the wage subsidy scheme and the publication of safe air travel protocols. We have also progressed a European slot rule waiver for airlines in consultation with the European Commission.

The other recommendations, including further targeted financial supports to help reinstate connectivity (including for Cork Airport), regional development and sustainability in the sector are being examined. Work is required to develop these recommendations into effective interventions, and that work is underway by my Department. It will feed into the Government’s further plans to aid broader economic recovery, including in the aviation sector.

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.

In relation to any future support mechanisms for the aviation sector, my Department will continue to work closely with aviation stakeholders and continue to review options in the context of the Government’s plans for international travel, having regard to the recommendations of the Aviation Taskforce.

I cannot give specific commitments at this time because any further supports that may be considered will be part of the ongoing Budget deliberations, and there are many competing demands on the public purse. I want to assure you Deputy that my Department is in continuous contact with the daa, in terms of both Dublin and Cork airports and that the importance of these airports to the regions is well understood by Government.