Any attempts by our cash-strapped government to cut funding to the country's regional airports will do untold damage to rural Ireland.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey will shortly bring proposals to the cabinet on the future of the Public Service Obligation (PSO) funding for the six regional airports and the designated airlines which serve them.
The memo has been prepared on the basis of a value-for-money report on the €17 million-a-year funding to prop up routes to Kerry, Waterford, Ireland West Airport Knock, Galway,and Donegal.
Policy analyst for the Western Development Commission (WDC), Pauline White, said it had been in discussions with the department throughout the year on the PSO issue.
She said the commission believed international access to the west of Ireland was of vital importance and the PSO should be retained.
She suggested any other incentive under European Union rules should be explored to see how the regional airport infrastructure could be supported.
Ireland West Airport Knock has proven to be a flagship development and a resource vital to the west of Ireland.
Its success can be measured by the passenger throughput and the growth in routes to the UK and Continental Europe.
While international travel in general is slumping because of the recession, it is imperative, nevertheless, to remember we are an island nation and depend on air and ferry access to conduct our import and export transactions.
While the PSO route from Knock to Dublin may not seem significant it is, however, an additional link in the overall access route to the west.
With a hair-shirt budget on the horizon, there will be savage cuts imposed right across all sectors, but it is important to retain and improve access to rural Ireland.
Air travel subsidy is necessary to make certain routes viable so the travelling public can get from rural destinations to the larger centres of population.
The scrapping of the PSOs could jeopardise jobs across the regions and would put this country as a whole at a grave disadvantage.
Our regional airports provide links to different parts of the country, especially to the west and north west, which still lack a proper road network.
Any cutback in funding to them will have a detrimental effect on many areas of the regional economy, including trade, manufacturing and the tourism sectors.
The dream of Monsignor James Horan in establishing Knock Airport cannot and should not be subjected to the whims of our political masters.
After all, it was the people of the west and north west who initially funded the airport and any downgrading of services there will be hotly opposed.