Ireland's first national aviation policy has been launched, which commits to retaining Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports in State ownership.

The strategy has been in development for three years.

The aviation industry employs 26,000 people directly and contributes over €4bn to the economy.

Those jobs and the tourism sector's reliance on air travel are at the centre of the new policy document announced by Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe. 

It is proposed to retain Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports in State ownership and to develop the industry through, among other things, increasing connectivity especially with emerging markets.

The strategy, which was developed following submissions from aviation and economic stakeholders, also commits to undertaking an independent review of the regulatory regime for airport charges. 

The policy is a 93-page document and contains 70 actions to develop all aspects of the aviation sector in Ireland. 

The policy commits the Government to fostering growth in competition and connectivity at the state airports, periodically reviewing capacity issues and publishing a policy on airport charges by the middle of next year. 

Dublin airport will be promoted as a secondary hub to allow airlines flying from other countries land with passengers for onward flights.

The second runway at Dublin Airport will also be built to cater for greater numbers of planes as passenger numbers increase.

The Government is also asking Dublin and Shannon airport authorities to look at developing air cargo services and will establish a National Aviation Development Forum so that all sectors of the industry can have an input into ongoing developments.

Supports for regional airports in Donegal, Kerry Waterford and Ireland West Airport in Knock will continue but clear business plans will be required from any regional airport seeking funding.

Minister Donohoe said the new policy is needed because the industry is of huge importance to Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the minister said the document will ensure that Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports will remain in state ownership and will give a clear commitment to develop regional airports.

The minister said there is a commitment to review the status of Cork Airport, and said its presence in the Dublin Airport Authority is the right place for Cork Airport, as it has gained new routes.

In relation to a second runway at Dublin Airport, Mr Donohoe said if Dublin continues to grow at its current rate into the future there will be a need for a new parallel runway.

He said Dublin Airport will have to work out how that can be done and bring forward proposals itself.

He said the concerns of Shannon Chamber, in relation to Dublin being a vibrant hub for traffic between the EU and the US, have been addressed in this final document and this is one of the reasons that Ireland needs a national aviation policy.

He said it will allow clarity on the role that each airport can play.

He said there is an objective to grow Dublin into a European hub which would involve a growth in the share of routes into and out of Ireland, having picked up passengers.