April 14, 2021
MacManus seeks additional supports for Regional Airports

MacManus seeks additional supports for Regional Airports

Sinn Féin call on EU to loosen state aid rules for Knock and other regional airports

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has contacted the European Commission seeking a possible exemption from State Aid rules for regional airports such as Ireland West Airport Knock. State Aid rules limit the amount of state subsidies that can be given to a particular company or sector.  MacManus, the Sinn Féin MEP for Midlands Northwest believes a “total exemption from these rules is necessary for Ireland’s regional airports due to the devastating effects of Covid on the aviation sector. Currently only 75% of investment aid can be covered under the rules.”

MacManus said:

“Recently I met with senior management of Knock Airport, including Managing Director Joe GilmoreThey starkly outlined the devastating impact Covid has had on the airport. Passenger numbers have decreased enormously, with only 143,000 passengers passing through the airport in 2020. This has led to a huge loss of income for the airport and many job losses and came after a record-breaking year in 2019 when passenger numbers surpassed the 800,000 mark for the first time. While airports across the country have suffered due to the effects of Covid, it has been particularly difficult for our regional airports.”

“In light of the enormous Covid impact on these airports I have contacted the European Commission to highlight the issue and to enquire about a possible exemption from State Aid rules for Ireland’s regional airports. An exemption would allow for major capital investment from the Government and provide much of the necessary infrastructural works required for Knock Airport continued expansion to take place. This would ensure that Knock can emerge from the pandemic in a strong position and continue to provide an invaluable service to the people of our region.”

“The government has launched a “Regional Airports Programme” to take advantage of the current Temporary State Aid Framework. It is my understanding that this scheme would allow even further investment than is planned. I am also querying the Commission on this point.”

“Ireland West Airport is one of the State’s four main airports and a critical driver of economic development and tourism in the Border, Midlands and Western regions, supporting thousands of jobs and contributing over €180 million to the regional economy annually. In the coming years the Airport’s 600-acre Strategic Development Zone is set to be developed into an enterprise campus to cultivate new businesses, potentially creating thousands of new jobs, with a particular focus on innovative industries and those related to aviation and software. Knock Airport will be crucial in addressing regional imbalance and reinvigorating the economy in the west of Ireland in the coming years. Therefore, it is key that the airport is supported, and this cannot happen without investment.”

“I look forward to the Commission’s response, and should they be favourable to a State Aid exemption for Knock Airport it will be incumbent upon the Government to respond and be proactive in securing such an exemption. Myself and my Sinn Féin colleagues will continue to work at an EU, national and local level to ensure that regional airports like Knock are fully supported.” ENDS

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