Mid West Task Force Report – Dail Statement

January 28th, 2010 - Pat Breen

28th January 2010

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this important report. I commend the eminent businessman, Mr. Denis Brosnan, and his team for the excellent work they did in preparing the report. The least we could have is the Government taking on board some of its recommendations. We cannot afford the luxury of having another report left to gather dust.
Unemployment in the mid-west region stands at 13.8%, some 1% above the national rate, while in Clare it rose by 121% in the past two years. The most concerning fact is that the number of under-25s on the dole queues has jumped by a staggering 142.3%. The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment or the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Dara Calleary, should visit the Shannon Free Zone where they will see many “For Sale” or “For Lease” signs on business premises.
Shannon Airport is the key driver for economic growth in the region but it is facing the most difficult period in its history. It is a crisis that has not been helped by the Government. Ryanair is axing 18 routes out of the airport which had been a boost to tourism over the past five years. This is because the Government has imposed a €10 travel tax.
I am also concerned about Aer Lingus’s operations in the region, particularly after the investors’ day meeting in London on Monday last when the airline’s chief executive officer, Christoph Mueller, said Dublin provides a natural advantage for long-haul expansion westbound. That tells me Aer Lingus is not interested in Shannon Airport or transatlantic business out of it, raising questions about its commitment to the region. While I accept the airline is going through a crisis, the Government should use its shareholding in the company to influence the airline’s policy direction.
In last night’s state of the union address, the US President, Mr. Obama, focused on job creation policy. He said his administration could slash tax breaks for companies that shop jobs overseas. This would have consequences for the 65 US multinational companies employing thousands in the mid-west region. It could be another factor in the death knell for the region.
I do not want to be just negative. Last July, on the aviation preclearance legislation, I referred to the Lynx cargo project in which the company is willing to invest €12 million in the region. While the Dublin Airport Authority will need to spend €7 million on the project, the money has not been forthcoming. The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said she supports the project. If she does, then she should put her money where her mouth is to ensure the Dublin Airport Authority finances the project.
It is what the region will need. Companies in the region will be producing medical devices and refrigerated units, yet the Government has turned a blind eye to the Lynx project which would assist in exporting these products. As well as cargo preclearance, we need full preclearance for the corporate jet sector.

The Dublin Airport Authority is spending €1.2 billion on the development of its second terminal at Dublin Airport.
Last week’s Sunday Independent reported that the authority spent €850,000 on consultants to advise the Minister which company should operate T2.
Surely some of that money we need for job creation in the mid-west could be diverted to Shannon Airport. Will the Minister of State give this authority money to the mid-west?
Our region will die unless the Government gets involved. Over 50 years ago, the late Dr. Brendan O’Regan came knocking on the Government’s door for money to support his initiatives in Shannon Airport and the region. Today, Mr. Denis Brosnan is knocking on the door seeking support for his recommendations but, unfortunately, the Government is silent on the issue. We want action quickly. The buck lies with the Minister of State and his Government colleagues. I urge them to stand up and deliver on these task force recommendations.