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Shannon Airport must be identified as the airport of the Wild Atlantic Way so that Co Clare can fully capitalise on the success of the tourist route.

Cllr Pat McMahon speaking at the June meeting of Clare County Council was urging the local authority to make the most of the 2019 Irish Open that will take place in Lahinch. “It is a once off and we have to piggybank Shannon Airport as the Wild Atlantic Way airport”, he stated.

McMahon had put forward a motion asking “Due to the huge impact the Wild Atlantic Way has in County Clare, and the world wide attention the Irish Open Golf will bring to the county, I propose that the elected members tour the route to see it first hand and to enable interaction with communities on the route and examine possible new extensions of the route.”

He recalled that the Council had unanimously previously agreed to such a visit but said Lahinch Golf Club hosting the European Tour event next year “has changed the whole ambience of our visit”.

“My angle is Shannon Airport and the Wild Atlantic Way, 90 percent plus of the people will arrive in Shannon, the world media will arrive in Shannon, if we can tie in and make it known that the supreme body Clare County Council to hang our hat on Shannon Airport”, the Fianna Fáil councillor added. “Travel agents and media when they look at the growth of the Wild Atlantic Way, one great thing about it is it is free and available 365 days of the year. The Wild Atlantic Way has changed everything”.

With television crews from the UK and US to broadcast from Lahinch, Cllr McMahon was adamant that a positive world view must be obtained of Co Clare with what he called priceless coverage that the whole county will feature in. In addressing various problems that need to be overcome most notably traffic, the Newmarket-on-Fergus politician asked the Council to have “a helicopter view”.

Independent councillor, PJ Ryan seconded the motion, “It’s not every day you get the Irish Open in our county. This is going to create a huge focus, it’s a fantastic opportunity to draw attention to tourism in our area”.

McMahon’s Fianna Fáil colleague, Clare Colleran Molloy gave her backing and echoed “the helicopter view” he outlined. “I hope the Clare County Council Executive is working hard to ensure it’s a success”, she said. “It’s not just next year it’s the many years after”, the former General Election candidate commented of the benefit the event will bring to the county. “It can be a wonderful opportunity for Shannon and the county”, she reflected.

Ennis based, Cllr Johnny Flynn added his support to the motion but also the local authority going out to tender for a tourism strategy. He is hopeful that the tourism benefit to Clare would be quantified subsequently. “Fáilte Ireland has proven that Clare has major attractions for tourists but we only get half the spend of adjoining counties. Money is kept in counties with heads on beds rather than tour buses heading out”, the Fine Gael councillor highlighted.

Cllr Bill Slattery is a member of Lahinch Golf Club and confirmed that the CEO of Clare County Council met with management of the club last week. He wants councillors to be kept informed of any traffic management plans for the event and revealed he has some ideas to deal with possible issues, one of them being to only allow buses to Lahinch. Cllr Slattery also informed the meeting he has approached landowners who would oblige to let their land be used for parking purposes.

“It’s exciting times not alone for North Clare but the whole county”, said Cllr Pat Daly. His question on whether or not a new bridge would be built at Ennistymon went unanswered but The Clare Echo revealed last month that works at Blake’s Corner would not be completed in time for the golfing tournament. Cllr Christy Curtin praised McMahon who he said has “always been a positive proactive councillor”

In an official response on behalf of the Council, Director of Rural Development, Leonard Cleary confirmed that a field visit to the Wild Atlantic Way would be arranged shortly. CEO, Pat Dowling singled out local media in the county for looking at the positive aspect of the Irish Open coming to Clare. “There will be many challenges” he cautioned but reassured councillors that they would be kept updated.

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