Shannon Airport funding plea to tackle 'dominant Dublin monolith'

Shannon Airport is suffering because of the dominant position of Dublin Airport, Limerick economists have said.

Speaking at Limerick Chamber's business breakfast, the organisation's economist Catriona Cahill was joined by University of Limerick economist Stephen Kinsella in calling for specific funding for Shannon.

Ms Cahill said Shannon was under pressure from Dublin Airport with 96% of all new passengers coming into Ireland, but also from regional airports such as Knock and Kerry, which had grants available as regional airports that Shannon had not as a state airport.

"The importance of airports is recognised In Project Ireland 2040 but despite this, there is a very worrying trend of Dublin’s increasing dominance. Shannon last year achieved 1.86 million passengers but has the capacity to serve many more and act as a counterbalance to the Daa monolith," Ms Cahill said.

In late 2012, Shannon separated from the Daa, which operates Dublin and Cork Airports.

Mr Kinsella said Shannon had a special case for funding supports due to the impact of Brexit being an "existential threat to the midwest in agri-food production and obviously manufacturing".

He said the current spread of passenger growth into Ireland, with Dublin Airport grabbing 96%, is not sustainable.

“We should not accept that. It doesn't need to be the case that 96% of all increase in traffic goes to Dublin and the other 4% is split between the regional airports.

“We don't need to accept that at all. A policy of proper balanced regional development means not everything goes in one place. The Government’s adopted and preferred strategy is balanced growth and balanced regional development.

"If the policy and the strategy is that, then the funding and the policy platforms need to come behind that to support it. We haven't seen that up to this point. It would be brilliant if we did see it.”

A spokesman for the Daa said "the notion that Dublin Airport’s growth is necessarily at the expense of other airports in the State is incorrect".

"Over the past three years, Dublin and Cork airports have grown their passenger numbers by 26% and 14% respectively. They were the two fastest growing airports in the State during that period.

"Passenger numbers at Cork Airport, which was the second-fastest growing airport in the State over the past three years, are expected to increase by a further 7% this year. Ultimately, airlines decide which cities they want to operate to, and they make this decision based on economic factors.

The spokesman said that for many routes, Dublin competes with other European cities rather than other Irish airports.

New long-haul routes to cities such as Beijing, Hong Kong, and Doha and would be lost to Ireland if those routes didn’t operate to and from Dublin. Dublin Airport competes for these services with large overseas airports such as Manchester, Brussels and Copenhagen rather than with Shannon or Cork.

The growth in traffic at Dublin Airport is "excellent news for the Irish economy as it boosts tourism, trade, and foreign direct investment throughout the country", the Daa spokesman said.

"Dublin Airport is one of the most important economic assets in the State, as it supports or facilitates 117,300 jobs and contributes €8.3bn annually to the national economy.

The fact that small country’s largest airport has more than 80% of total traffic is not unusual in Europe, he said.

"Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport accounts for more than 90% of Dutch passenger traffic while Copenhagen Airport has about 84% of Danish passenger traffic.”

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