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Phone call from Varadkar influenced Shane Ross to extend Rose Hynes’ Shannon Group tenure

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Rose Hynes’ extension as Shannon Group Chairperson in August 2019 arose following a phone call by the then Taoiseach, a former Minister for Transport has claimed.

Writing in his memoir, ‘In Bed With The Blueshirts’, former Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross (IND) revealed that current Tanáiste Leo Varadkar (FG) encouraged him to extend the contract of Bellharbour woman Rose Hynes as Chairperson of Shannon Group.

Hynes was due to step down from the post on August 28th of 2019 when her five year term as Chair of the Group responsible for Shannon Airport, Shannon Heritage and Shannon Commercial Properties expired.

In a chapter of the book titled ‘Mandarins Rule, Ok’ detailing the influence held by civil servants in the Leo Varadkar led Government, Ross recounted the events that led to Ms Hynes receiving a twelve month extension in the role. He said he “crossed swords” with the chairs of the DAA, CIÉ and Shannon Group before becoming Minister in May 2016.

He wrote, “The third appointment that promised to be an awkward encounter was Rose Hynes’ position as chair of the Shannon Group. She had originally been appointed as chair of the Shannon Airport Authority – again by Leo (Varadkar) – in 2013 and had been promoted to the chair of the Shannon Group on its incorporation in 2014. She was long past her sell-by date as a non executive director”.

Ross continued, “Rose Hynes had been a director of the Bank of Ireland during the crash and chaired its remuneration committee when it was handing out outrageous salaries to top executives”. He highlighted that she was appointed to the board of Aer Lingus in 1997 by former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes and stated, “Rose had a good line to the Blueshirts”.

Varadkar did not make contact with Shane Ross regarding the departures of Padraig Ó Riordáin from the DAA or Vivienne Jupp from CIÉ but made an exception when it came to Rose Hynes.

A strong case for the North Clare woman remaining in the role was made by the then Minister’s Department officials who believed that Shannon Group was facing “a crisis” and needed Rose at the helm.

“I was determined not to give her this extension and I told my officials so. They strongly resisted but in the end threw in the towel and suggested that I tell Rose myself”. Subsequent “terse conversations” between Ross and Hynes followed.

Following one such discussion, the Dublin native came to the conclusion that he was dealing with “a shrewd judge” who felt he would be gone as Minister at the end of a potential one year contract extension. “Rose was a street fighter, not giving up without a battle. She wanted to stay giving a host of reasons why she should including the recent setbacks at Shannon Airport following several blows, not of her making”.

They agreed that the Minister would consider “out of courtesy” for an extra few days her future as Chairperson. Ross wrote that less than five minutes after another conversation with Rose ended, he was contacted by the then Taoiseach who sought a phone call to discuss the matter.

Varadkar questioned if there was a case to keep Ms Hynes in place due to Shannon being in a difficult situation and whether he had a potential successor lined up.

In what he labelled “realpolitik”, Ross outlined that he texted the Taoiseach a number of days after their phone call to inform him that he proposed to reappoint Rose for another twelve months despite it not being the “original intention”.

When the extension concluded in August 2020, Ms Hynes stood down from the post. No successor has been appointed by current Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan (GP).

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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