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Ireland West Airport Knock welcomes official publication of the study group report into growth options for the airport

For a full copy of the study group report please click here

Ireland West Airport Knock today welcomed the official publication of the Study Group report on the future development and growth options at Ireland West Airport Knock

The report, which was presented to An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD and Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar TD last week contains a number of targets and parameters that will guide the Airport in moving forward and pursuing a progressive growth strategy and implement a business plan which will enable the Airport to achieve a sustainable position in the longer term.

The study group, chaired by John O Mahony TD, which met on a total of 8 occasions, comprised of representatives from a range of local and national interests including the Airport Board and management, Government Departments, local business, State Agencies and Local Authorities, and were assisted by Ernst & Young.

Deputy O’Mahony, in marking the publication of the Study Group Report said “I was pleased to be invited by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D. to chair this Study Group to examine the potential for the future of Ireland West Airport Knock. It represented an opportunity and a challenge against the backdrop of changing policy positions at both a national and European level. My concern has been to ensure that the contribution made by regional airports to social and economic development in peripheral locations is fairly acknowledged at a national and European level. By using IWA Knock as a reference case, I believe this has been demonstrated.” Deputy O’Mahony added that he was confident that the Report will be of significant benefit, not only in terms of IWA Knock’s future, but also in developing policy on regional airports in Ireland.
Welcoming the publication of the study group report, Joe Gilmore, Managing Director, Ireland West Airport Knock said ‘The publication of today’s report is a very positive step. The report clearly highlights the strong business case for future investment in the airport and identifies clear deliverables and returns to support this investment and we are confident Government will endorse the recommendations outlined in this report and put in place a long term investment programme to enable the airport to deliver on the above and achieve a self sustainable position within this period. Finally I would like to thank all the airport staff, Local Authorities & stakeholders, politicians, Government agencies, business, tourism and interest groups who have supported the airport and this process over the last number of months’

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar has also welcomed the Report, stating “given the current financial position of the regional airports and the contribution that they make to their regional and local economy, it is accepted that they should be given the opportunity beyond 2014 to grow to a viable, self-sustaining position. With that in mind and having considered the Study Group’s Report, a decision has now been made to extend Exchequer support for regional airports beyond 2014. My Department will now develop a framework for approval by the EU Commission in respect of State support for regional airports, for implementation at the end of the current programme of support (i.e. from 2015)”.

“IWAK, as well as the other regional airports, will now need to develop business plans for their on-going sustainability and long-term sustainability eventually without Exchequer support in line with EU State aid guidelines, which will restrict the extent to which the State (including local authorities) will be in a position to support the airports. Central to these will need to be regional and local business investment. Given the strong commitment of the local authorities and businesses to the work of the Study Group I am confident they will not be found wanting in this regard,” Minister Varadkar concluded.

Welcoming  the publication of the report, Mayo County Manager & Airport Trust Chairman, Peter Hynes said  “Mayo County Council are very pleased to have been part of the Study Group and we recognise that this Report outlines a roadmap for the growth and development of one of the key pieces of access infrastructure for this region.   The Report sets targets and challenges for all stakeholders including the Local Authorities and we look forward to working with these stakeholders to grow the Airport over the next ten years  for the benefit of the entire West and  North West.”

Key recommendations contained in the report

•    Where there is viable path to sustainability and growth - supported by a robust business plan – investment in regional airports by local authorities and business should be supported by a targeted and time limited multi-annual programme of Exchequer supports.

•    There should be deeper involvement in, and support to IWA Knock from the relevant Local Authorities.

•    An IWA Knock Development Partnership Group should be established by Mayo County Council with the support of the Airport and relevant Tourism Agencies and should draw up a detailed and specific action plan to drive tourism in the catchment.

•    To assist the Airport in maintaining its lean cost base and tight executive team, the relevant local authorities should lend their technical and professional capabilities as appropriate and lead in the development of a local tourism plan. 

•    State Agencies – in particular those in the tourism sector – must enable and support the Airport and other regional stakeholders in growing passenger numbers through tourism and other channels.

For a full copy of the study group report please click here

NOTE for Editors

Government and regional stakeholder investment to make this happen:

•    A change in current aviation policy to recognise the significant role that regional airports, particularly including Ireland West Knock, currently plays in driving access and regional economic development and commitment that the upcoming new Aviation Policy will acknowledge this and position that role going forward.

•    An investment up to a 10 year period to 2023 that will enable the airport to deliver on the above and achieve a self-sustainable position taking into account EU guidelines.

•    This investment involves an optimum level of investment and support of about €36m from a combination of sources including the Exchequer, Local Authorities and business interests, a restructuring of the airport debt and continued operational support to 2019 taking into account EU State Aid guidelines

•    In parallel with the above investment the airport will work in tandem with the Local Authorities, Tourism and Enterprise bodies and other regional stakeholders to realise and implement the plan recommendations.

The overall conclusions of the Group are that -

•    It is reasonable to expect that, in line with draft EU Guidelines, regional airports should be financially viable within, at most, a 10 year period

•    A policy position which would see Exchequer support terminate at the end of 2014, would leave a situation whereby IWA Knock, and likely all regional airports, would face closure within a short timeframe

•    Given the contribution that key regional airports make to their regional and local economy, as illustrated in the case of IWA Knock, they should be given an opportunity beyond 2014 to grow to a viable position

•    In facilitating their future development, regional airports should have local authority, local business and Exchequer support

•    In the case of IWA Knock, the route to growth lies in developing tourism. Local interests, with the support of national agencies, should draw up and implement a plan to develop this market

•    Regarding  Exchequer support, a framework should be developed by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport for approval by the EU Commission for implementation at the end of the current programme (that is from 2015)

•    That framework should provide a level of certainty around support over a multiannual period, where regional Airports can provide a business plan leading to stand alone commercial viability within a ten year period and should include requirements in relation to:
•    Local authority, business and Exchequer involvement
•    Catchment areas served
•    Size of airports and level of public support
•    Route to viability
•    Safety and security conditions for Exchequer Capital funding

•    Regarding  the draft EU Guidelines the Group supports the Irish position that:
•    Member States should be allowed to provide a maximum intervention rate of 90% for safety and security related projects at all regional airports, particularly when passenger numbers are below 1 million per annum

•    A requirement to progressively increase operating cost coverage by 10% per annum is too rigid and some flexibility to take account of individual airport’s circumstances and their ability to cover full operating costs over a longer period but within the 10 year timeline should be provided

•    Regarding  Ireland West Knock, it is also recognised that in relation to the present debt level a separate parallel solution, not involving Exchequer support, must be identified. Local Authorities should be key to resolution of this issue

The Ireland West Knock Study Group is confident that – taken together - the actions set out here can assist in delivering the medium-term viability of the Airport to the benefit of the local community, region and Ireland as a whole.


For further MEDIA information contact:
Donal Healy, Marketing Manager                              
Ireland West Airport Knock
T: +353 (0) 94 936 8108;   M: + 353 87 4165612

Nick Miller, Press Adviser
Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport
T: +353 (0) 604 1040; M; +353 (0)86 6992080