Government will not reach its Tourism Job Creation Targets unless they abolish the Air Travel Tax – My contribution to Fine Gael’s Private Members Motion on the Economy this week.

October 2nd, 2010 - Pat Breen

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion. The volcanic ash cloud has cleared from over Iceland but this morning all of us in Ireland have discovered an even darker cloud over the Irish economy. The people must face further pain as they are €16 billion worse off than they were yesterday. There is huge discontent at the way the wrongdoers who caused this crisis have got off with this lightly while the ordinary people must bear the pain.

The recession has left 455,000 people unemployed, 170,000 people in negative equity and 110,000 families facing winter with no light or heat. Thousands of young people are leaving the country. Unemployment among the under 25s in County Clare has reached 60.74% in the past two years. According to CSO emigration figures, not since 1989 have we seen such levels of emigration. The country faces a huge brain drain that must be addressed.

The recent announcements of the Government, unveiling and repackaging old job strategies for PR purposes, have contained nothing new. There is nothing smart in the new strategy Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy. It is overly ambitious and lacks credibility.

How does the Government intend to deliver 15,000 extra jobs in the tourism sector and increase visitor numbers to 8 million while persisting with the €10 travel tax? As an island nation, the best way to create jobs in the tourism industry is to abolish this tax. We are dependent on air access into the country and all airlines are committed to increasing services into the country if the tax was axed. We should call Michael O’Leary’s bluff. He has recently reduced services from Shannon, Kerry and Dublin. According to recent figures, only €45 million was collected under this tax for the first six months of the year. The revenue falls well short of the predicted amount of €125 million while some people say we are losing €450 million in revenue as a result of this tax. The casualties of the tax are clear to see – visitor numbers are declining and airlines have cut services. As a result, bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants and car hire companies are struggling. Shannon Airport has been the biggest victim of the tax. If the airport is to turn a corner and restore services, this tax has to be abolished.

The game is up for this Government. It is bereft of ideas and its strategies have failed the country and have brought it to the brink. It is now time that the people were given a choice to elect a new Government. I commend Deputy Bruton for tabling the motion