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Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) has hit back at the former CEO of Aer Lingus for knocking his suggestion that Shannon Airport set up its own airline.

As reported by The Clare Echo, Senator Dooley encouraged Shannon Group Chairperson Designate Pádraig Ó Céidigh at a sitting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications that Shannon Airport establish its own small-scale airline.

Willie Walsh, the ex CEO of Aer Lingus and British Airways said the call for Shannon Airport to establish its own airline was “madness”. The CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said airports should focus on running airports.

“I hear lots of crazy ideas from politicians but that’s probably one of the most crazy ones I’ve heard,” the Dublin native stated. “Running airlines and running airports are two completely different things,” he added.

Walsh’s comments were disrespectful, Senator Dooley believed. “The reality is that I would have expected Willie Walsh to say something like that. Willie Walsh is a corporate captain who wants everything centralised, uncomplicated and the likes of Shannon Airport and the needs of peripheral regions flies completely in the face of everything he stands for. We have seen the commitment to the Shannon region by the airlines he presided over, from Aer Lingus to British Airways and IAG. Today all we have is a reduced temporary Heathrow service until November and no promise of a return to transatlantic services next year. He is all about the shareholder value and never about the social benefit or the needs of those that live outside the large urban areas. He simply could not care less about that.”

Senator Dooley added: “His comments today are utterly disrespectful and condescending to the people who refused all those years ago to accept the type of conventional thinking that Willie Walsh brings to the table. They refused to listen to people who dismissed their ideas and ambition and look at what happened as a result.

Shannon’s history as an economic driver, its role in the start of the world’s first free trade zone and link to tourism in the West of Ireland strengthen the proposal, the Mountshannon native affirmed. “Shannon has always succeeded because it dared to try things that others wouldn’t contemplate. It refused to go with the flow and it was that type of thinking that made it the success it has been over the years and brought economic development to this part of the island of Ireland. It is that type of thinking and spirit that we need to summon and certainly we do not need to listen to the likes of Willie Walsh with his big-city corporate thinking.

“So, if anything, Willie Walsh’s comments are a call to action from all the people involved with Shannon to recapture that spirit of the underdog, to refuse to accept convention and to not be limited by others’ lack of ambition If considering establishing an airline is part of that thinking, let’s explore it and if it doesn’t work out as a concept, so be it. But let’s not be deterred by the likes of Willie Walsh and not accept the disrespect he has shown to the great people who refused to accept ‘no’ for an answer and went on to do great things regardless”.

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