Wednesday 21 February 2018

180 jobs at risk at Galway Airport due to funding cut

Rosemary O'Grady

The Government's decision to cut financial support to Galway airport threatens the future of 180 job there as well as an annual injection of €31m to the local economy, it was claimed today.

The Managing Director of the airport Joe Walsh criticised the Government's lack of joined up thinking on the issue, saying it damaged confidence about the future of the airport, adding there was now a real risk of Galway closing.

He said the decision by Transport Minister Leo Varadakar halfway into the year, was based on a flawed report which had been rejected by the previous government. He stressed that a six-month timeline was "not sufficient to seek new investors".

Interviewed on Morning Ireland, Minister Varadkar said that the tough decision had been made to “consolidate funding round four airports which will be able to stand alone”.

He added that he had to make the best use of Government funds and that Sligo airport would have no scheduled flights from 1st July and Galway airport is not jet capable. He said he hoped that they would be able to seek investors and local authority support in a bid to secure their futures.

Against a backdrop of €100m cutbacks in his own budget, he pointed out that there was “significant improvements” in road networks, and shorter journey times by road and rail, combined with “the collapse in passengers flying domestically” meant that the decision to pull funding from the two airports was unavoidable.

Former Minister Eamon O Cuiv called on the Government to reverse the decision, describing the approach to Galway and Sligo airports as "shortsighted". He said this air access was vital for the west of Ireland.

Fianna Fáil Spokesman Timmy Dooley accused the minister of adopting a ”sledgehammer approach” over the question of funding in 2012. Dooley said that Varadkar had “effectively given six months notice for the closure of these two airports. The fact that this Government is prepared to abandon these airports is disgraceful and should cause great concern for people in the west of Ireland.”

The manager of Sligo Airport Mr Joe Corcoran welcomed the decision to continue financial support until the end of the year. He said he was optimistic that with further negotiations with local authorities and other airport users they would find a way to keep the airport operational next year.

Mr Varadkar announced that €5.9 million additional funding would be made available for regional airports next year, but that this funding would only be given to those at Donegal, Knock, Kerry and Waterford.

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