Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to thank the FAEI for inviting me here this afternoon. I would also like to take this opportunity to commend the FAEI on the work they do on behalf of the aviation industry in Ireland.
Everyone is very well aware of the importance of air travel for Ireland. The liberalisation of air travel in Europe has brought enormous benefits to Ireland both for business and for leisure travel. Negotiations between the European Commission and the USA authorities have now resumed in Brussels and there are some signs that the first phase of an open-skies deal could be settled this year. We need certainty on this issue, certainty for Shannon Airport and certainty for Aer Lingus.
This would facilitate a significant enhancement in our transatlantic air services with more US destinations being opened up to Irish airlines and Irish airports. I am convinced that opening up the transatlantic market will provide new opportunities for Shannon, Cork and Dublin airports. And the economic benefits to Ireland of such an outcome would be significant more tourists visiting Ireland is good not only for jobs in aviation, but the wider economy as a whole.
Speaking of contributing to the economy, a huge contribution is made by the other parts of our aerospace industry. The FAEI membership embraces a huge range of high tech, high value added activities.
Just as the EU liberalised the regulation of the airline industry, it is now helping to harmonise safety standards throughout Europe. The European Aviation Safety Agency took over its responsibility for certification and maintenance of aircraft in September 2003. The extension of powers to the Agency into the areas of operations and licensing is planned for the end of next year.
This move to formalise and harmonise safety standards with the European Community framework has been strongly supported by Ireland and we look forward to the extension of EASA's powers. I know that FAEI members are concerned to ensure that the fees and charges levied by EASA are kept under control. I share this concern and we will bear it in mind as we participate in the EASA Management Board.
I cannot mention aviation safety without, of course, paying tribute to the Irish Aviation Authority. The Authority has been working closely with my Department in relation to EASA and I know that there is also much to be gained by strong working relationship between the Authority and the FAEI members.
In these difficult times for international travel, we are all very conscious of the need for extra vigilance in relation to aviation security. Ensuring the highest standards of aviation security at our airports is a must. I and my colleagues are working to ensure that the security issues are addressed in cooperation so that there can be full confidence in the security arrangements and that, as far as possible, our high standards of security are achieved with a minimum of inconvenience to the travelling public.
I very much appreciate the cooperation and support of everyone engaged in the aviation business in the important area.
Cape Town Convention
I know that FAEI members who are involved in aircraft finance have been strong supporters of the Cape Town Convention and I was delighted to succeed in having our legislation enacted before the Dail Summer recess. That enabled Ireland to become the seventh ratifying country and it is only one more ratification is needed for the Convention takes effect.
You will also be aware that the Irish company "Aviareto", won the international competition to host the registry, beating Canadian, Singaporean and Spanish entries and I wish to congratulate the Company on this achievement.
The Government remains fully committed to the restructuring of the three State Airports as provided for under the 2004 Act. The business planning process which is currently underway by the three Airport Authorities and the assessment of the outcomes by both myself and my colleague, the Minister for Finance, will feed-in to determining the most appropriate 'next steps' to give effect to the restructuring.
As our premier Airport, I believe that much needed investment in terminal and pier facilities at Dublin Airport is paramount. The Government's Aviation Action Plan, delivered in May of this year has enabled the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) to press ahead with its planning and preparations for additional capacity to cater for growth at the airport. The Aviation Action Plan gives Irish aviation a clear strategic direction and an unambiguous mandate for growth. The net result will be a stronger aviation sector and a better future for the economy, customers and staff. We have put in place the first ever comprehensive plan for the long-term success and growth of Irish aviation
Over 18 million passengers are expected to pass through Dublin Airport in the current year. This major development programme will increase the passenger handling capacity of the airport to 30 million per annum and provide a safe, comfortable and efficient experience for passengers, airlines and other users of the airport.
The DAA is also carefully considering the recent new airport charges determination by the Commission for Aviation Regulation and will be consulting with my Department on the delivery of the priorities set by the Government.
There is clearly a lot happening in aviation in Ireland, whether in domestic policy, or driven by Europe.
FAEI's views are always welcome, as representing the many parties involved the Aerospace Industry in Ireland. I am conscious of the very great deal of knowledge and experience that resides in the FAEI, and I would encourage you to keep in touch with my Department regarding aviation issues of interest to you.