Minister Varadkar Announces Decision on Regional Airport Funding

June 2011

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar has today (Tuesday) announced additional funding for regional airports for this year, and said financial support will continue to be available until the end of the year.

Minister Varadkar also confirmed that from next year, the Government will only be in a position to support the four regional airports at Donegal, Knock Ireland West, Kerry and Waterford. The Government will not be able to provide operational or capital funding to Galway or Sligo airports.

The Government decided today to provide €5.9 million in additional funding to regional airports for 2011, and to continue financial support until the end of the year, reversing a decision by the last Government. This €5.9 million comes on top of the €13.4 million already allocated to regional airports for this year by the last government.

The Minister urged Galway and Sligo airports to use the opportunity provided by the additional funding to engage with various parties, including business interests, investors and local authorities, in order to secure their ongoing viability in some form.

Minister Varadkar explained: “When I took office, I discovered that the last Government had left us with just €600,000 for operational funding at all six regional airports. This was in spite of a disingenuous election pledge from Fianna Fáil to fund all of the airports for the whole of 2011, without allocating the necessary funding.

“The Government has now reversed that decision and is providing funding for all six regional airports, for operational purposes, for the whole of 2011. All the regional airports must use this period to prepare realistic business plans for the future, as funding cannot be maintained at current levels.

“The right thing to do is support the most viable airports, where there is also a clear geographical need for their services. Otherwise there won’t be enough funding to support any of the airports in a meaningful way. As a result, the Government has decided that operational and capital funding will only be provided to four of the six regional airports from next year: Donegal, Knock Ireland West, Kerry and Waterford.”

The Minister said this decision is necessary to make best use of scarce Exchequer resources, and to ensure the efficient use of taxpayers’ money. The aim is to ensure that Ireland has a sufficient network of regional airports, while taking into account significant improvements in road networks, shorter journey times by road and rail, and the collapse in passengers flying domestically.