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*Shane Ross was the last member of Cabinet to visit Shannon Airport when he was Minister for Transport in November 2019. Photograph: Arthur Ellis

A suggestion to bring members of the Cabinet to Shannon Airport to hold a meeting has been dismissed by a Clare TD who quipped that it would be better to invite Duffy’s Circus instead.

Chairperson of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, Limerick TD Kieran O’Donnell (FG) told its sitting in recent days that bringing members of the Cabinet to Shannon Airport to hold a meeting would send “a powerful message”.

While Chairperson Designate of Shannon Group, Pádraig Ó Céidigh welcomed the idea, the reaction was not as favourable from Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND). “There is a proposal to bring the Cabinet to Shannon Airport. Unless they are coming with a strategy for Shannon Airport, which has been sorely absent up to now, I respectfully suggest that the airport would be better off bringing Duffy’s Circus to Shannon because at least it would bring a crowd,” he said.

Deputy McNamara also sought clarification on the difference between an executive chair and a non-executive chair. “Mr. Ó Céidigh said that his role is to determine the strategic direction of the airport,. Whose role is it to drive matters and achieve that strategic direction if he remains a non-executive chair,” the Scariff native questioned.

Ó Céidigh’s response indicated that his new role is a part-time role. “As I see it, a non-executive chair is very much a part-time role, the primary function of which is to chair anything between eight to ten board meetings a year, each lasting up to two to three hours and sometimes longer. The executive chair is a full-time role. That is the primary difference. The Deputy also asked about the difference between the chair, the chief executive officer and the management team, and the strategic direction. In my view, it is the board and not the chair. The chair facilitates the board. The board creates the vision and works on the strategy with the management team.

“Fundamentally, strategy is very simple. The Deputy spoke of strategic direction. With strategic direction, we start off knowing where we are at now. It is totally honest, with no sort of bias. It is just a case of asking where we are at now. Then we ask where it is we want to get to. Strategy is the bridge we build between where we are now and where we want to get to. It is the board’s role, in my view, to work with the management team in creating a realistic and effective strategy in creating it. It is the management team’s function to execute on the strategy. Management are primarily in execution mode. The board is not necessarily in execution mode. All of the board, including me, are non-executive. There are many other things going on in their lives, as is the situation with most, if not all, other State boards. That is the difference in the role of the board versus the role of the executive”.

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