Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan (Green Party) has reiterated the Irish government's support for the Derry to Dublin air route, which operates out of City of Derry Airport.
In a Parliamentary question to the minister, Donegal TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, asked that City of Derry Airport be included in the forthcoming Regional Airports Programme, to reflect the fact 40% (80,000) of its passengers annually were from Donegal.
Mr Mac Lochlainn asked: “Will he [Minister Ryan] restore the Public Service Obligation (PSO) for the Derry to Dublin air route to reflect the reality that there is no rail or motorway connecting the north west region of 500,000 persons to the capital city?”
In his reply, Minister Ryan referenced New Decade, New Approach document of January 9, 2020, which restored the Executive in the North following a three-year hiatus.
He said: “With regard to re-establishing a PSO air service between Derry and Dublin Airports, and as part of new power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland, the Irish Government has committed to review options for supporting renewed viable services on two air routes; Derry to Dublin and Belfast to Cork. This is reflected in the published deal, New Decade, New Approach.
“My Department has commenced this review and is engaging with key stakeholders including City of Derry Airport.
“My Department is currently finalising a new Regional Airports Programme for the period 2021 to 2025. Last year, as part of a public consultation process on the policy, 63 submissions were received, including one from City of Derry Airport.
“All input to that process, including more recent submissions, have been examined by my Department and put forward for consideration by Minister of State Naughton. Once approved, it is anticipated that the new Programme will be published by end 2020,” he said.
Speaking to Inish Times, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said Martina Anderson MLA and he had recently met online with the management of City of Derry Airport.
He added: “The big issue is that 40% of City of Derry Airport's customers come from Donegal, including a high percentage from Inishowen. It is therefore unacceptable that for years the Irish Government has failed to financially back the airport.
“It is my understanding City of Derry Airport will not be included in the Regional Airports' Programme, which would be the Public Service Obligation. However, the minister did reference the New Decade, New Approach. In that deal, the Derry to Dublin air link is specifically mentioned.
“It is important to stress, when people hear about Derry to Dublin flights, they might think of those as stand alone. However, it is not just about people flying between Derry and Dublin. Obviously right now with Level Three restrictions, we can go nowhere but we will get back to business, hopefully next year. What we are talking about then is having passengers from all over the world landing in Dublin and if we can get them a connecting flight to Derry, that is a game changer.
“A connecting flight is not so much commuters going to Dublin, it is also a connecting flight for tourists. We cannot get them directly into the North West, but if you can break down that sense of Donegal as being remote, we can bring tourists to the region. It is not just about getting commuters, or workers or business people to Dublin,” said Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Mr Mac Lochlainn said it was “disgraceful” the Irish Government had failed to financially support City of Derry Airport in recent years.
He added: “City of Derry Airport has been appealing to the Irish Government for years. I have been working with it, behind the scenes, trying to get meetings with the previous minister, Shane Ross, and his department officials.
“With 80,000 passengers from Donegal passing through City of Derry Airport annually, it is not the Derry Airport it is our airport, it serves the whole North West region. It looks like we are hopefully going to get some funding next year.”
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