Check Against Delivery
Good evening Ladies, Gentlemen and Distinguished Guests. It gives me great pleasure to be here this evening to address you at this Aviation Gala Ball.
As some of you may know, I have been involved in the negotiations around forming a Government in recent days and while I enjoyed the company of the Opposition, I mean no disrespect to those colleagues by saying I am glad to be with you tonight, rather than them!
I want to immediately remark favourably on your efforts to achieve the Gatsby themed dress code. Before I came here, I thought about the section in the novel when Nick Caraway is talking about different kinds of people and where he says “there are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired”.
When it comes to government formation, I fall into at least three of those categories.
It is a credit to all concerned and especially to the IAA for taking the initiative and organising this major aviation event as a fund-raiser in aid of the Irish Historical Flight Foundation, which has the laudable aim of capturing and showing Ireland’s rich aviation history and heritage.
ATTACKS IN BRUSSELS
I’ll return to the business of the evening in a few moments and to the importance of aviation generally to our economy.
But it’s appropriate at the outset that we reflect for a moment on the cowardly attacks perpetrated on Zaventem Airport and Maalbeek Metro Station in Brussels just over a week ago.
Our sympathies go out to all of those that have lost loved ones and those that have suffered terrible injuries from these outrages. We simply cannot let these barbaric attacks succeed.
We are all Europeans, we are all democrats and we must – and we will – prevail.
THE IMPORTANCE OF AVIATION TO IRELAND
To move on to the business of the evening…
Tonight’s event is an opportunity to illustrate the widerimportance of the aviation sector to Ireland.
We know that aviation is a key economic driver contributing over €4bn directly to Ireland’s GDP.
Aviation provides both direct employment in the sector and additional jobs in supporting industries. Ireland’s tourism industry is worth a further €5bn to GDP, and is of course heavily dependent on aviation.
I’m glad to say that the aviation sector continues to grow strongly, in line with our overall economic recovery.
A strong aviation sector is essential for Ireland. It connects us to the rest of the world to support tourism, which helped Ireland to attract a record 8.6 million visitors last year.
Aviation is critically important to ensure our continuing attractiveness for Foreign Direct Investment for job creation generally.
And as I have said previously, I believe that the aviation sector can help to drive further growth, and not just simply expand along with it.
If it is to successfully play this driving role, however, the need for new infrastructural developments is something that has to be addressed with some urgency.
The building of a parallel runway at Dublin Airport is perhaps one of the more critically important requirements in this regard.
Given the significant increase in passenger numbers at Dublin Airport in recent years – 10% in 2015 alone- and the projected traffic growth in future years, it is clear that a second parallel runway will be needed to cater for future growth.
We must proceed on the basis that this is going to be needed sooner rather than later in order to ensure that the sector can continue to grow to underpin economic recovery and development.
In light of the strategic importance of this particular project, I have recently had discussions with the Chairman of the Board of the daa together with senior management about this project.
NEW NOISE MANAGEMENT REGIME AT IRISH AIRPORTS
In addition this development, new EU legislation in this area will enter into effect in June this year concerning noise-related operating restrictions at EU airports, which requires the application of a balanced approach taking account of alternative methods of mitigating noise impacts.
The new noise regulation presents an opportunity to establish a modern cohesive and measured approach to the management of noise at Irish airports which is capable of delivering the best outcome for all stakeholders, including the local communities.
In consultation with the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, we are now engaged in resolving the technical elements to ensure the appropriate implementation of the Regulation as a priority by mid-June.
THE NATIONAL AVIATION POLICY AND THE ROLE OF THE NATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION DEVELOPMENT FORUM
Delivering a balanced approach to airport noise management is but one of the many aspects covered by the National Aviation Policy published last August and which now requires to be implemented.
The importance of urgency in this implementation process must be emphasised.
The Policy’s focus on Ireland’s connectivity is linked to the well-being of citizens as it is essential we are connected to the rest of the world in an increasingly globalised society.
The NAP contains 73 separate actions and the implementation of those actions can create the right conditions for economic growth across the aviation sector and across all regions of the country.
One of those actions is to establish the National Civil Aviation Development Forum, which I recently launched.
I am delighted to say that we have got an excellent buy-in from the various strands of the aviation industry in Ireland.
I am convinced that this can be a really effective platform for meaningful collaboration in shaping aviation policies and initiatives in the common interest of all players in the sector.
Ireland has a justifiably excellent reputation in terms of the people we produce within aviation.
In recent years, two great leaders from the Irish aviation scene received well-deserved recognition – the late Tony Ryan two years ago and Willie Walsh last year. Later on this evening another individual of the same high calibre – Alan Joyce – will also be honoured by the Irish aviation industry and I look forward to that after dinner.
Looking around I see many other aviation leaders in the room, too many to mention each by name so please accept a collective welcome.
But it is truly heartening that many of the top names in the aviation world speak with Irish accents. I’m confident that your full involvement and engagement with the National Civil Aviation Development Forum, bringing your energy and flair to bear, is going to make it a success.
ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2015
In terms of implementing the NAP, we are already making good progress;
– 2015 was a year of strong growth and record numbers for Irish aviation. Ryanair, Aer Lingus, NAI and other major Irish airlines continue to forge ahead.
– The IAA managed a record 1 million flights through Irish controlled air space and in the North Atlantic.
– The IAA continued its excellent safety record in the context of this traffic and of the growth of the Irish register.
– And, of course, passenger numbers continue to grow with almost 30 million people using Irish airports last year. 2015 saw 26 new routes and extra capacity on another 50 existing routes at Dublin, Cork and Shannon.
– The National Civil Aviation Security Programme was reviewed and updated in 2015. I am also delighted that the National Security Committee has agreed to oversee implementation of the security-related actions of the Policy going forward.
– The State Safety Programme was 70% completed and a coordination platform was established to ensure finalisation of the Programme.
– And a draft Government Order was prepared to implement the Cape Town Convention “Alternative A” insolvency arrangement into Irish law. This will enhance Ireland’s attractiveness as a jurisdiction for aviation finance and will be welcomed by our aviation leasing sector, the top 10 in the world having significant bases in Ireland and who, thankfully, are well represented here tonight.
One of the most significant developments was the sale of the State’s remaining shareholding in Aer Lingus.
I am delighted that IAG and Aer Lingus are already delivering on their commitments to bring about enhanced connectivity.
I’m happy that the future of Aer Lingus and its workers is secure. Job security is something I am acutely aware of these days!
I want to make special mention of the airports around the country, the leadership of which I have been very impressed with in recent years,
Dublin Airport set a new record with 25 million passengers in the last 12 months. The strategic importance of Dublin Airport is reflected in the National Aviation Policy and I have already emphasised the necessity for Dublin Airport to have the necessary additional runway capacity when it is needed.
Of course, the State airports in Cork and Shannon, and indeed the four regional airports, also provide important connectivity for their local economies and communities.
Under the Regional Airports Programme 2015 to 2019 my Department provided Kerry, IWA Knock, Donegal and Waterford airports with €4.4 million in financial supports last year.
You may be aware that Indecon Economic Consultants finalised its report on the current regulatory regime for airport charges in December last.
My Department will shortly be taking the next step with the publication of that report together with a consultation paper and I would ask all stakeholders to engage fully in this consultation process.
When the submissions have been reviewed, my Department will finalise and publish its policy on airport charges regulation and make preparations for any necessary changes to legislation by the end of the year.
In conclusion, I would like to just say a few final words on the Irish Historical Flight Foundation, the chosen charity for this Gala Ball.
The presence of such a large crowd this evening is a good omen for the future of the Foundation and it tells me that there is wide industry support for its work.
The contribution of the representative Committee of volunteers deserves recognition and a special thanks to its Chairman Mick Hickey.
I wish the Foundation every success in its work and I look forward in particular to progress being made this year on the building of an Aviation Experience centre.
In a world where the magic and benefits of aviation can often be taken for granted, it’s a really good idea to promote a deeper understanding amongst the public – and especially the young – of aviation and flight.
I wish all in the Irish aviation sector every success in the year ahead. Thank you.