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Wednesday 27 August 2014

Varadkar keen to stay in transport role ahead of reshuffle

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

Published 31/12/2012 | 05:00

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TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has declared his desire to stay put ahead of the expected cabinet reshuffle next summer.

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There has been speculation about Health Minister Dr James Reilly being replaced and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore moving from the Department of Foreign Affairs to a home-based department.

But Mr Varadkar said he really did want to stay in the Department of Transport.

"I took a few months to settle in but I really like the job that I have. There's a lot of things that I want to see through, whether it's The Gathering or changes that are happening in Shannon Airport, or starting works on the Luas link-up," he said.

However, he said the decision was entirely at the discretion of Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

"Wherever he asks me to serve, if he does ask me to serve, I'll be happy to do so," he said.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at Howth harbour in Dublin to mark the 161 lives saved by the activities of the Irish Coast Guard during the year.

He hailed another significant milestone by pointing out that Shannon Airport will become fully independent today, escaping from the control of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

"The risk of doing nothing is obviously much higher than the risk of doing something. Certainly, with the co-operation of the workforce, and a big government push behind it, I think it is going to work," he said.

This motivation behind the new plan is to halt the decline of Shannon Airport, which has lost over 100 million passengers since 2007.

Mr Varadkar said a newly independent Shannon would not kill off Knock Airport in Mayo.

"Knock's doing very well. One of the real successes is that it now requires very little subvention (state subsidy) for passengers. So I think there's room for both airports," he said.

Fine Gael Clare TD Pat Breen said there were already a number of positive signs that Shannon Airport's passenger traffic will be bolstered in 2013, with new flights on the way from United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Aer Lingus and US Airways.

"This will bring many opportunities for the airport. The new structure will allow it to develop, increase its traffic and create jobs," he said.

There are 2,000 people working in the aviation industry in Shannon in overhaul maintenance service and aircraft leasing. A key aim of the new independent Shannon Airport company is to grow the number of jobs in this sector.

Mr Varadkar is insisting that Shannon Airport staff will have to transfer to the newly independent airport company rather than remain in the employment of the DAA. The company will have €100m of debt written off but the Aer Rianta International chain of duty-free shops, which was founded at Shannon, will remain with the DAA.

Irish Independent

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