Dáil Éireann - Volume 586 - 27 May, 2004
Written Answers - Air Services.
Mr. Wall Mr. Wall
20. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to recent comments by the chief executive of Aer Lingus that visitor numbers from the United States to Ireland could be doubled within a short period of time if current restrictions under the US-Ireland bilateral air agreement were to be lifted; if he has any intention of reviewing the provisions of this agreement to allow Aer Lingus access to more American gateways. [15367/04]
Mr. Deenihan Mr. Deenihan
46. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport the progress that is being made on negotiations on the US-Ireland bilateral air agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15353/04]
Ms Burton Ms Burton
53. Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he will elaborate on his recent remarks at the recent Future of European Air Transportation Conference in Dublin that Shannon Airport would benefit significantly if a low cost airline agreed to start operating transatlantic routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15877/04]
Mr. Broughan Mr. Broughan
73. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if the future of the Shannon stopover was raised at recent talks in Washington between  Irish and US officials; the nature of these discussions; the US position on the phasing out of the stopover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15878/04]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 46, 53 and 73 together.
As I have previously indicated to the House on a number of occasions, I have authorised my officials to seek negotiations with the US on possible phased amendments to the Ireland-US bilateral agreement. Accordingly, officials from my Department met with US officials in Washington DC on 4 and 5 May 2004 to explore the Ireland-US bilateral aviation arrangements in the context of progress on an EU-US open skies agreement. My officials emphasised the importance of Shannon Airport for the economy of the west of Ireland, in particular in the context of Ireland’s national spatial strategy, which aims to counterbalance the growth of Dublin by focusing economic activity at a number of other locations. My officials also outlined the Irish Government’s decision to separate Dublin, Shannon and Cork Airports into autonomous airport authorities to enable them to maximise their potential. In that context, they indicated that Shannon Airport needs a period of years in which to transform its business plans and marketing strategies.
The eventual effect of an EU-US open skies deal, should such a deal emerge, would be to leave the choice of airports with the airlines. In the absence of special bilateral arrangements between Ireland and the United States in such a case, there is a risk that the open skies arrangement could mean a sudden end to the current Shannon stop requirement, which could have immediate negative impacts for Shannon.
I met yesterday with the US Secretary for Transportation, Norman Mineta, at a meeting of European Transport Ministers in Slovenia. I emphasised to him that an acceptable arrangement for Shannon must be reached before I will be in a position to agree to any EU-US aviation agreement that might be put to the Transport Council on 10 and 11 June next.
The implementation of open skies on a phased basis will also enable Aer Lingus to exploit the potential for new transatlantic business to the overall benefit of tourism and the Irish economy.
Dáil Éireann 586 Written Answers Air Services.