SHANNON GROUP’s former Chair, Rose Hynes has denied that a “failure to reach projected numbers” at Shannon Airport were not washed to the side.
During a tense exchange before the Oireachtas Transport Committee, Rose Hynes fielded numerous questions from Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) regarding her six-year tenure as Chair of Shannon Group.
Ms Hynes was speaking before the Committee in her role as Chairperson Designate of the Irish Aviation Authority, a company which has a staff of 700, 332 of which are based in Co Clare. The New Quay native currently sits on eight different boards including the University of Limerick.
Senator Dooley recalled that Ms Hynes was one of the key individuals that led a campaign over a decade ago to secure Shannon Airport’s separation from the Dublin Airport Authority. “It was often said, not by you, that if the dead hand of the DAA could be taken off Shannon it would prosper in a free market and in competition, then the Government went ahead with that as you identified the current Tánaiste as Minister initiated that separation and rewarded you with Chairmanship of the Airport in 2014, it was a quasi-executive role, during that time you went through three CEOs, numerous managers were hired and left”.
He referenced a five year plan was launched by Hynes in 2013 to grow passenger numbers at Shannon when “tourism was at an all-time low” from 1.4 million to 2.5 million within this time-frame. “Back in 2007 prior to the crash numbers through the Airport that year were 3.65 million, 1.4 was a very low base and 2.5 was seen as conservative, over that period passenger numbers grew at Shannon by only 300,000 to 1.7 million while Dublin grew by 13 million. That was on your watch,” Dooley commented.
During this time, she said her role was as non-executive Chair and that she had no involvement in procurement.
Shannon Group seemed to then put more of a focus on its performance “in financial terms and a lot less discussion about passenger numbers,” Dooley said. He added, “the message around failure to reach projected numbers at Airport were in my view were washed to the side” to which Ms Hynes said “you’re wrong”.
For the first time, Ms Hynes also confirmed that she rang the then Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar (FG) when former Minister for Transport, Shane Ross (IND) informed her that he would not be extending her tenure as Chair of Shannon Group. Following Varadkar’s intervention, she was given a twelve month extension. “It doesn’t speak to the way I do business,” she remarked when questioning why the matter was raised before the Committee.
“I wasn’t lobbying, I was telling him my position. I was telling him this just happened. I was appointed by the Taoiseach when he was Minister for Transport, I was informing him of the position,” she said of the phone call.
Mountshannon native Dooley repeatedly questioned the IAA Chair Designate on whether she met with any members of the Oireachtas Committee “directly or indirectly” since taking on her new role in January to which she said she had not. However a subsequent report by The Irish Independent has revealed that Ms Hynes met with Committee Chair, Limerick TD Kieran O’Donnell (FG) outside his constituency office which she stressed did not constitute lobbying.