TRANSPORT Minister Shane Ross has defended his decision to grant €5 million funding to Waterford Airport. To deny the money would have sounded the airport’s “death knell”, he said.
The decision has been backed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar but is reported to have been opposed by officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe .
Three local authorities – Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford – are to back the airport with a further €2m, but it has emerged that this €7m from the taxpayers will only be handed over when private industry coughs up a further €5m it has promised.
The Government money will be paid in arrears when an extended runway is signed off as fit for service by the Irish Aviation Authority.
they won’t give us a penny until we build it, and they know full well that it’s going to cost more
Fianna Fáil councillor and general election candidate, Eddie Mulligan, has questioned the “conditional approval” of the funding, saying that it appears to be another example of a crucial Waterford project being “kicked into touch”.
“Minister Ross said that the funding would be dependent on the airport being able to demonstrate that the project can be delivered for the estimated amount of €12 million,” said Cllr Mulligan.
“Their €5 million contribution will only be paid when all upgrade works are completed and the runway is confirmed to be ready for service by the Irish Aviation Authority.
“So what Minister Ross is actually saying is that they won’t give us a penny until we build it, and they know full well that it’s going to cost more than €12m, even allowing for inflation.”
He said he was baffled that all Waterford’s Oireachtas members had welcomed the announcement .
“The government are showing that they can pull the wool over John Halligan’s eyes, and the rest of them will follow blindly behind,” said the councillor.
Another councillor has called for a united front on the airport funding with no public dissent. Former metropolitan mayor Joe Kelly said “everyone should be wearing the blue jersey”.
“I’m hearing that there are some detractors at a local level here in Waterford, probably even among some of the councillors,” he said. “I think that’s unwise and uncalled for.”
Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler criticised “certain commentary” about the funding. “It’s time for the naysayers both nationally and locally to give this fantastic opportunity the green light and pull together for Waterford and the South East,” she said.
Private companies pledge €5m for airport
SEVERAL companies and a number of private investors are to contribute €5m to help extend the runway at Waterford Airport.
A statement issued by Transport Minister Shane Ross’s department said: “Among the private investors who have shown a willingness to commit time, money and expertise to this project are Conor McCarthy (Leadmore Investment Company), Noel Frisby, Dawn Meats Group, Glanbia plc, Coolmore Stud, Stafford Wholesale Ltd.”
Local authorities in Waterford, Kilkenny, and Wexford will invest a further €2m and the Government will add €5m to the pot.
But the taxpayers’ money will not be handed over until the private investors have made their payment and the work has been satisfactorily completed.
Mr Ross said formal confirmation of the funding was dependent on the airport being able to demonstrate that the project can be delivered for €12m.