DANIEL MCCONNELL ENDA KENNY and Fine Gael rejected plans to develop a second airport at Baldonnel 11 years ago while in government, a confidential document seen by the Sunday Independent reveals.
The revelation comes as the country's main Opposition party leader pledged to build a second airport in the west Dublin area if elected Taoiseach this summer.
In the document, an analysis of Baldonnel's facilities is included. It then goes on to detail how, in 1995, Ryanair founder Dr Tony Ryan proposed to develop Baldonnel as a second commercial airport for Dublin.
It reads: "Dr Tony Ryan submitted a proposal to establish a second airport for Dublin City South at Baldonnel in 1995. In 1996 the then Government decided that the provision of a second commercial airport in the Dublin area would not be in the interests of the aviation sector and economy generally."
Enda Kenny was Minister for Tourism and Trade in 1996 and now references his time in office as a "revolution in Irish tourism", despite rejecting plans to develop civil aviation at Baldonnel.
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Independent yesterday, Enda Kenny said: "Anyone enduring the crowding and discomfort at Dublin Airport today would appreciate the long-term thinking for our future aviation needs.
"No one could have anticipated the monumental mess the current Government would have made at the airport with inaction over 10 years.
"With population growth and passenger numbers increasing rapidly, I believe that if we are going to plan for the next 20 to 30 years, we need to look at a second airport for Dublin after examining current resources and other greenfield sites."
Baldonnel as a site is regarded as ideal for development due to its location on the Naas Road and its proximity to the M50 and Luas. It boasts ample room for car parking and a terminal building.
The document seen by the Sunday Independent also reveals that a second report commissioned in 1999 showed no reason for Baldonnel not to be developed.
"The position of Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel was considered in the Warburg Dillon Read/AIB report 1999 which assessed the merits of a second airport in Dublin on behalf of the then Department of Public Enterprise," it reads. "No reasons to hinder commercial development at the aerodrome were seen subject to appropriate planning approvals."
Under the 1993 Aviation Act, as a military facility, the decision to develop Baldonnel currently rests with the Departments of Transport and Defence.
According to the document: "The Department of Defence was of the view that certain civil aviation operations at Casement Aerodrome could be accommodated without detriment to the military use of the aerodrome."
However, the Government has made no move to locate a second airport on Dublin's west side.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said yesterday: "The Warburg Dillon Read Report of 1999 does look at the development of Baldonnel Aerodrome, but it also states that: 'Government financial support of any kind to such developments should however, only be considered if there were compelling arguments that it would be in the public interest to develop a second airport. In our view, such arguments are not readily apparent.'"