Leo Varadkar’s courageous decision to cut subsidies to Galway Airport here is the sort of decision ministers doing their jobs properly take. His primary function as a minister is to ensure that our taxes are spent with the best return possible. But there is a bigger issue at stake here. The gut instinct, when a minister cuts funds to a local project, is for local opposition to declare that the project is “vital” for local economic or social development. Well, if it is vital, then local people won’t mind paying a Galway Airport Tax to keep open such a vital service. Why not ask them in a vote in Galway City and County?
What will happen, of course, and I stress that Dublin would be no different in its reaction to this than Galway, is that people will be outraged that they have to pay for a service that they benefit from. They will demand that it be subsidised by someone else. Hardly the response of a people who believe the service to be vital, is it? After all, people dig deep to save the things they really value, like local soccer or GAA clubs, so why not the vital service that is Galway Airport. Could it be that when they’re asked to pay for it themselves, it suddenly isn’t as vital as they first thought?
Of course, you could argue the same for Dublin Bus. It gets a national subvention, and only serves the people in the Dublin region. It’s a fair point. Surely the people of the Dublin region should subsidise Dublin Bus? It would certainly make Dublin’s politicians look more closely at whether Dublin Bus actually provides value for money.