Unless an aviation policy in Ireland is drafted, Shannon International Airport is at risk of being downgraded “to a regional airport”.
What started off as a motion designed to praise the Shannon Group as discussion emanated at the April meeting of Clare County Council, concern was raised at the current amount of traffic flying into Shannon Airport.
Newmarket-on-Fergus councillor, Pat McMahon asked the local authority to “commend the Shannon Group for the progress of its commercial property division and encourage the Group to examine the potential to leverage spin off employment for the strong aviation cluster based in Shannon.”
When speaking in the Council Chamber, Cllr McMahon felt Matthew Thomas’ decision to step down as CEO of the Shannon Group plus management’s decision not to renew the contract of his predecessor, Neil Pakey “leaves a no confidence factor out threre”. He believed Dublin Airport Authority had been undermining Shannon in negotiations for potential routes. The Fianna Fáil councillor stressed the importance of a delegation from Shannon Group visiting China to establish stronger connections.
Noting that he fully supported “the contents of the motion”, Cllr PJ Ryan stated, “There is no doubt about it, Shannon Group have made fantastic inroads in the Free Zone. It’s a pity they wouldn’t put the same effort into the Airport itself, they need to get an awful lot more passengers passing through”.
He warned that measures need to be taken to deal with Dublin Airport Authority who he believed “stooped to a new low in recent times”. The Independent councillor said buses are taking people from Shannon to the capital and putting them on flights from Dublin Airport, “There is a bus outside the terminal building bringing them on transatlantic flights to Dublin, that is a new low. It’s an absolutely crazy situation. An Aviation policy needs to be looked otherwise we’re going to have a regional airport on our doorstep”.
Following up on mention of China, Cllr James Breen recalled, “When I was Chair of Clare County Council myself and acting CEO Ger Dollard attended a meeting with a delegation from China signing a deal with Air Rianta for flights to and from China but that never happened”. The Kilnamona councillor claimed, “I believe Dublin Airport came along and took it instead of Shannon”.
Independent councillor, Gerry Flynn noted how the debate had steered from the original motion and flagged to the planning department of the local authority that more emphasis is being put on the Shannon Free Zone as opposed to the town itself, “Look at the restaurant activity that is springing up in the Industrial Estate”.
“I feel that with Brexit the time is right for a European cargo hub in Shannon, the facilities are there, everything is in place, now is the time, it is an ideal location for a European hub,” Cllr John Crowe observed. His Fine Gael colleague, Pat Burke shared his concerns for the Airport, “It is a major issue within our own county. A successful tourism provider in East Clare told me about his concern of the lack of activity at Shannon Airport”.