Varadkar asked to speak on airports after dispute
Published 08/12/2012 | 05:00
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar is to be asked by a joint Oireachtas committee to discuss how Knock and Shannon airports can "thrive in a spirit of co-operation".
The invitation follows a war of words between Mr Varadkar and Knock Airport boss Liam Scollan this week.
Mr Scollan has said Knock Airport may take legal action in Europe to scupper plans by the minister to transfer €100m of debt attached to Shannon Airport to the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) as part of a measure to grant Shannon Airport independence from the DAA.
Mr Scollan has claimed the transfer of the debt could be considered illegal state aid and would distort the market. He said the debt transfer, coupled with incentives the Government plans to offer business in Shannon, could threaten Knock Airport's future. Shannon will no longer be part of the DAA at the end of this month.
Details of incentives to be offered by the Government to encourage the growth of aviation services in the area are due to be unveiled soon.
"The decision to intervene so generously in one airport while ignoring other airports amounted to an unfair, wasteful and possibly illegal use of scarce resources, which would not serve the interests of national aviation," Mr Scollan claimed this week.
Knock – which is owned by a community trust on a non-profit basis – received €16m in capital grants from the State between 1997 and 2012.
Mr Varadkar said this week that if Knock wasn't happy about state supports, then it could stop taking them. Knock isn't in line to receive any state support after 2014.
This week, Mr Scollan and Knock Airport chief executive Joe Gilmore addressed the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications and called for greater recognition of the strategic importance of the airport.
"Our committee intends to invite the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar before us to discuss his department's aviation policy and to carefully consider how best to ensure both airports can thrive in a spirit of co-operation," said Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes, the chairman of the Oireachtas committee.