Breen welcomes jobs initiative – Dail Debate

May 12th, 2011 - Pat Breen

Contribution to Jobs Initiative Debate – Dail Eireann – 12th May 2011

I commend the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, on the sensible measures he has taken to improve the country’s international competitiveness and promote job creation. As my time is limited, I will focus on one aspect of the jobs initiative, namely, tourism.
Last Monday afternoon the Oireachtas Members for County Clare addressed the members of Clare County Council. This was a welcome initiative by the Mayor of County Clare, Councillor Christy Curtin, to improve communications between the Oireachtas and the local authority. All of the councillors present spoke about the importance of boosting tourism in County Clare and the need to develop Shannon Airport and increase passenger numbers. As we all know, the number of overseas visitors fell by 15% last year. This sent a real shock wave through the tourism sector.

Tuesday’s jobs initiative announcement is the exact medicine we need in the mid-west region to boost our tourism numbers. The €3 travel tax will be axed on 1 July if the airlines agree to carry additional passenger numbers to our main airports. I spoke to the Taoiseach yesterday and he is committed to that proposal. He said that both he and the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, will shortly meet the Irish airline chiefs to hear their proposals in that regard. I hope that with cheaper airport charges and no travel tax, Michael O’Leary will live up to his promise and reinstate the lucrative routes from Shannon Airport that he axed as a result of the travel tax back in 2009.

I call on Aer Lingus also to follow up on its success with Aer Arann at Shannon Airport, where they now operate together a number of very successful cross-channel UK routes, and give serious consideration to services to mainland Europe for 2012. The German and Italian markets are there for the taking.
I spoke to Mr. Marcus White, a hotelier in County Clare from the Whites Hotel Group, last week. He is bringing in 8,200 tourists from Germany this year to Clare for one week’s vacation. They are travelling through Dublin as they cannot go through Shannon because there are no flights to Shannon Airport. Mr. White told me this will be worth €8 million alone to the Clare region. There are other operators like him who would do that if they had the opportunity and if there were direct flights into the airport. I call on Ryanair and Aer Lingus to live up to their proposals in this respect. That is only one such example.

Cheaper airport charges, a strong tourism marketing front and the reduction in VAT from 13.5% to 9% could result in thousands of additional tourists coming here each year if the tourism industry and the airlines have the will to bring that about.

Yesterday in the Dáil the Minister for Justice and Equality announced a common UK visa entry system for tourists and business people from 14 countries entering the State from the UK. Those countries include the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, from the latter of which huge numbers of tourists travel to mainland Europe every year.
I recently had the Korean ambassador visit County Clare. Some 3.5 million Korean tourists travel to mainland Europe every year but unfortunately they do not go any further. I hope that South Korea will appear on that list of countries in the near future.

To complement this initiative we need the airlines to play their role by providing cheaper tickets to Ireland through linking up with foreign carriers. The Government has set the wheels in motion to promote tourism in this country like no other Government had done previously. Next week and the week after we will see the showcase of Barrack Obama and Queen Elizabeth come to this country. We can boost tourism numbers from the UK and US on the back of those visits.
There are many other aspects I would have liked to discuss but unfortunately time does not permit me to do so. They include the allocation of €2.6 million for regional roads in County Clare and the allocation of €30 million for the school works programme, with allocation having been made for 16 schools last March and seven at this time. I welcome the jobs initiative and commend the Government and the Minister on it.