We have had a week of uncertainty in the aviation sector. Our thoughts go to staff who have lost jobs over the weekend and those whose jobs are under threat within the aviation sector. I welcome that emergency seven-month contracts can issue where a new operator can be found for PSO services to Kerry and Donegal. It seems like a different world when in late 2019 the then Government of which I was a member was able to buy the Connemara airport for the PSO service to the Aran Islands. Little did anyone think we would see the collapse in the aviation sector across the world even a few months after that.
I acknowledge that €300 million in State funding has been provided by the Government for this sector spanning employment supports, such as the temporary wage subsidy scheme and the employment wage subsidy scheme to maintain links between employers and employees, the waiver of commercial rates and the deferral of taxes, all of which are positive in protecting jobs. Having spoken with senior management in some of our US-based multinationals in Galway, I know that the present status of our aviation sector is of concern to them. The view is that we are being left behind compared to other countries. One commented that we need to be more in step with other countries. Another commented that competitor countries are back operating international travel. I am concerned about the impact on businesses supported by foreign direct investment, FDI, the impact on the hugely important tourism industry, particularly from Shannon Airport and Ireland West Airport Knock, the hundreds of jobs in aviation across the regions, the wider impact on connectivity and the increasing peripherality due to the collapse in the sector, and the loss of opportunity of new investment. IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and University Hospital Galway, in my own region, depend on connectivity internationally. I am calling for an urgent debate on aviation given recent developments and implications for connectivity for the economy, whether it be in the west, the mid-west, the north west or the south west. We are losing ground on all fronts as a nation on aviation. The Government collectively needs to act to protect a vital national interest. We need to look at antigen testing, how it is being used in other countries, how it is being used internationally, how it is benefiting other countries and why it is not being deemed to be a runner in this country. It is broader than the two Ministers for transport. There needs to be a whole-of-government debate on the sector, on the impact on jobs, on the impact on tourism and on the impact on every sector and every region. I ask that there be a serious debate on the issue of aviation with the Minister for Transport, the Minister for Health, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Taoiseach or the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform,