*Photograph: Joe Buckley

A RETIRING Clare county councillor has criticised an “illegal blockade” which impacted on passengers using Shannon Airport.

Traffic was brought to a standstill at Shannon Airport in April with a protest by Shannonwatch attracting numbers in the region of 500 including a strong cohort of IPSC groups from Clare, Galway, Limerick, Kilkenny, Kerry and Cork, Múinteoirí ar son na Palestine, Pals for Palestine.

In what was his final proposal before a meeting of Clare County Council, Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) called on the local authority to condemn “the illegal blockade of passengers seeking to access Shannon Airport”.

Speaking in the Council Chamber, Cllr McMahon pointed out that Shannon Airport’s access road “had to shut down” over the protest on April 10th. “It meant passengers had to walk with their cases for over a mile”.

Groups marched from Drumgeely along the N19 as part of Shannonwatch’s protest which they later described as their “biggest demonstration in years”, this began at 2pm and lasted just under an hour. Soon after, persons attached to the demonstration then proceeded to block access for motorists trying to get to Shannon Airport until approximately 4:40pm on. Passengers attempting to get flights were forced to leave their vehicles and travel on foot for 2km to the Airport while others were given lifts by An Garda Síochána positioned at the other side of the blockade.

“It is the first time I’ve seen an international airport impacted by such a situation,” Cllr McMahon flagged. He said he was fascinated by the regular demonstrations held outside Shannon Airport and pointed out that 53 percent of tourists to Ireland are from America. “Any strong tourist country are protected by their cousins because ships are moving in and out as we are all aware of,” he said. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native added, “the American Navy is our protector whether we like it or not”.

Seconding the motion, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) highlighted that it was “very serious”. He commented, “it closed down our International Airport on that particular day, people are entitled to a peaceful protest but they are not entitled to close down an international airport, it was an absolutely crazy situation”. The Cratloe man said, “Gardaí had to bring passengers and their luggage into the Airport but they missed planes”.

On the day of the protest, Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) said he was working in the Shannon Industrial Estate and went over to assess the situation, “it was nothing short of a disgrace,” he remarked.

“Nobody has any problems with people putting up blockages but not to our international airport,” stressed Cllr John Crowe (FG). “It is absolutely scandalous that this should happen,” the Sixmilebridge representative maintained.

Persons are entitled to have a peaceful protest, Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) argued. “Shannonwatch need to be able to protest,” she said. “The next time there is a peaceful protest, there needs to be a plan,” the Shannon woman said. She disagreed with councillors attempting to take away the right to protest.

A similar stance was taken by Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND). “Gardaí and the powers that be were well warned, I’ve no issues with a peaceful protest”.

Mayor of Clare, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) paid tribute to Cllr McMahon “on all you’ve done to fight for Shannon Airport” during his time as an elected representative.

In his final contribution on one of his motions, Cllr McMahon used the opportunity to “compliment the wonderful men and women who have worked in Shannon Airport”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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