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Shannon, Cork airports need to turn a profit, says Minister

Knock Airport subsidies will also “not be able to go forever either,” warned Leo Varadkar as he gets tough on airport subsidies.

Shannon Airport
Shannon Airport
Image: Peter Morrison/AP/Press Association Images

MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT Leo Varadkar has warned Cork and Shannon airports that they should not be reliant on State funding and should – at the very least – break even but ideally turn a profit.

Speaking in the Dáil this week, the Minister said the Government is moving away from the model of subventing airports.

He noted that neither receive direct Exchequer monies but argued that they do get an “indirect subvention” from being part of the DAA Group.

“My own view is that the current half-way house arrangement in place since 2004, whereby Cork and Shannon have their own boards but have limited autonomy from the DAA, cannot continue indefinitely,” said Varadkar.

He has already received the Booz report on the future ownership and operation of Cork and Shannon and it is being considered by Government.

He added that decisions about how to make the three State airports into “viable and sustainable” operations will be made later this year, probably a week or two after Easter.

Whatever we do has to be a success and for an airport complex to be a success, it should not be reliant on subventions and should be able to break even, at the very least, and ideally turn a profit.

Galway and Sligo airports have already lost out on grants and other regional airports are expected to break even on an operational basis by 2014.

If any model is to be a success, whether it is a CIE type model or independence, it is not a success if an ongoing subsidy or subvention is required, warned Varadkar.

“All of these airports should be able to turn a profit and at least break even.”

If it is the case that an interim arrangement is needed, so be it but the objective in the medium to long term should be a vibrant, profitable successful airport complex with many employees creating employment and revenues for the region and not something that is dependent on other people’s labours, taxes and revenues just to exist.

Responding to a separate question about Galway Airport, Varadkar said that it is a privately-owned entity for which he had no information.

“Its future plans, including any possible sale, are matters for the owners and management of the company in which I have no function,” he told the Dáil.

Current owners of the airport are looking for a buyer as it is no longer subsidised by the State.

Varadkar also warned that subsidies to Ireland West Airport at Knock will “not be able to go forever either”.

More: Report recommends Shannon Airport separate from Dublin Airport Authority>

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