Update on legislation to establish the Shannon Group plc

October 2nd, 2013 - Pat Breen

State Airports (Continued)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding legislation to establish the Shannon group plc; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40507/13]

As the Deputies will be aware, at its meeting on 23 July the Government approved the heads, or general scheme, of the Shannon aviation services and miscellaneous provisions Bill which provides for the creation of the new Shannon group entity, incorporating the Shannon Airport Authority, SAA, and a restructured Shannon Development. The heads are now with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting of the Bill.

I also forwarded the heads of the Bill to the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications for any views the committee may have, and where appropriate these can be incorporated into the drafting process. The heads are posted on the Department’s website. The timescale for publication of the Bill will largely depend on the drafting process and I remain hopeful we can publish and proceed with enactment in the current Dáil session although I recognise this will be challenging.

At its core, the Bill will provide for SAA and Shannon Development under a unified management structure to facilitate renewed passenger growth and to maximise the potential of the airport facilities at Shannon and of the land bank and properties in the adjacent Shannon free zone for development, growth and jobs, particularly in aviation-related services. The business development task force report of last November pointed to the real opportunities to develop and grow a specialist employment hub for aviation-related services, building on the existing industry cluster in Shannon which already employs more than 1,600 people. Over a five-year period, the task force estimated that an expanded aviation services centre at Shannon could create over 3,000 new jobs.

A key driver for these initiatives was the dramatic fall in passenger traffic at Shannon airport since 2007 and the need to restructure Shannon Development. Based on passenger numbers to the end of August and projections for the remainder of the year, it is expected the first key objective of the independent airport authority, namely to halt the slide in traffic, will be secured this year. This will be a major achievement for the board and new management team in Shannon and the employees at the airport. I am confident they will build on this achievement and secure renewed growth in the years ahead.

Deputy Pat Breen: I compliment the Minister on his actions with regard to the airport. Since he took over the transport portfolio passenger figures at the airport have improved, after years of decline.
Deputy Pat Breen: ] This is the third consecutive month there is growth at the airport, which is extremely important and is directly due to the policy of the Minister and the Government. I compliment the chairperson of the Shannon Airport Authority, Ms Rose Hynes, and the CEO, Mr. Neil Pakey, on the work they have done so far.

This legislation is extremely important for the airport. New flights have been secured this year and there will also be new flights next year, with Aer Lingus serving the destination of Shannon all year round from New York and Boston. It is a matter of sustaining and building, as the Minister rightly said. The legislation is particularly important in regard to aviation-related industries, as the Minister noted in his reply. There is much work to be done in developing the greenfield site at the Shannon free zone.

I ask the Minister to, if at all possible, fast-track the legislation. It is the final piece of the jigsaw and the current position is hindering the chances of getting aviation-related industry into the airport. There are already 33 companies there and this is vital for the airport going forward.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: I acknowledge the Deputy’s concerns and I am doing my very best in that regard. I am starting on the Road Traffic Bill today, the Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, is finishing off the Taxi Regulation Bill and the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, will be proceeding with the Sport Ireland Bill quite soon. Shannon Development is right up there among the pieces of legislation we want to get through in the session, and while there is a huge amount of legislation coming through the Dáil and Seanad at the moment, we will do our very best.