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A CLARE TD is to make an official complaint after he was denied access to an engagement involving the Oireachtas Transport Committee at Shannon Airport this week.

Shannon Group CEO and Chair designate, Mary Considine and Conal Henry welcomed members of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Energy to Shannon Airport on Monday with the clerk of the committee joining the politicians which included Clare TDs, Joe Carey (FG) and Cathal Crowe (FF) plus Senator Timmy Dooley (FF).

Michael McNamara TD (IND) expressed an interest to attend the meeting on Friday and contacted the Committee’s clerk to inform him that he planned on travelling to Shannon, in a subsequent phone-call to the Committee Chairperson, Kieran O’Donnell (FG) he was told he could not attend. No invitation was issued to Violet-Anne Wynne (IND) for the engagement.

When asked by The Clare Echo at Shannon Airport how McNamara was refused access, Deputy O’Donnell responded, “This is the Transport and Communications committee, effectively we as a committee are collectively going to all the airports, this is really about the members of the committee going to visit and having the invite from Shannon Airport to visit, it is as simple as that, it’s for us as a transport and communications committee, it’s about the members of the committee different from where you would have an Oireachtas committee here where non-members could come in, we’re going around as a collective committee”.

According to the Limerick TD, he “sought advice” before informing Deputy McNamara of the decision. “Our understanding was that this was in terms of any committee coming out like this it’s down to the committee, it relates to just the committee members going out, we have received an invite, we took up that invite, it’s different from a situation where you have an Oireachtas committee taking place which is held in Leinster House and it would be an understanding that non-members could come in, I’ve always been very open with that, we’re a cross-party committee. I think in terms of getting best value for the taxpayer it is about for us seeing what is actually happening on the ground, it is something we as a committee take serious, we started with Dublin, we’ve been in Shannon and we’ll be in Cork very shortly”.

Scariff native, McNamara confirmed to The Clare Echo he will be “making a formal complaint” to the Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight, formerly known as the Committee on Procedure. “A lot will depend on the wording of the invite and the purpose of the meeting. It is clear that all proceedings of the committee can be attended by any member of Dáil can attend, it was either proceedings of committee or it wasn’t,” he stated.

Presence of the committee’s clerk suggested it was indeed an official meeting, Deputy McNamara argued, “It’s about the principle of making sure everyone can attend the committee meetings”. He continued, “This is my second term as TD, I’ve never been refused accessed before, it’s something very strange. It’s important that it doesn’t happen again. Everyone has the same mandate”. He pointed out that he previously sat in on meetings of the Oireachtas’ finance and health committees.

In response to O’Donnell’s claims that it was solely for committee members and sourcing advice, Deputy McNamara remarked, “I had a discussion with the clerk of the committee who said it wasn’t a meeting, what was he doing there if it wasn’t a meeting, why was he coming down from Dublin, I presume he was on Dáil time and getting Dáil expenses. I’d be very surprised if there was any great degree of advice sought”. He said, “It seems to me from social media that the committee members thought they were at a meeting, I don’t know what it was, if it wasn’t a meeting why pretend it was”.

“If it was it was fairly pathetic, I’d like to think politics in Mid-West hasn’t slumped to that level yet,” McNamara said on the possibility he was denied entry because he is an opposition member. “I don’t understand it, I asked KOD was he being partisan and he said he wasn’t. I hope this nonsense won’t be repeated again, we all say we need to work together for Shannon but then a local Chair of the Committee acts to exclude other Oireachtas members from area. I appreciate I’m vocal on Shannon which might be uncomfortable for him as a Government representative”.

Deputy Wynne told The Clare Echo she believed all TDs in the county should have been invited to the engagement. “I consider it completely disingenuous for them to not do so. I do not accept that it would cause any logistic issue as stated by a government TD or any difficulty for that matter. The Government TDs are fully aware of the priority that Shannon Airport is to Clare TDs and the importance now more than ever for Transparency for those living in Co Clare. This will not bode well with the people whom all elected representatives have first and foremost a duty to represent. When such committee meetings have taken place in the Oireachtas, any TD can request speaking time which has always been facilitated and therefore should have been the case concerning the meeting in Shannon”.

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