MAYOR of Shannon Seán McLoughlin has defended his upcoming visit to New Jersey to attend the Union County St Patrick’s Day Parade.
He said that the visit comes at a cost to himself but that Shannon receives great exposure from the link with Union County which sees representatives of the town council travel there annually.
“The last time I was mayor, I was there and I met a man who was involved in a golf society. Its members used to travel to Ireland and Britain but every time they came here, the tour agent would bring them through Dublin. He asked me how they would come through Shannon and I said they could take the Continental flight from Newark. Some time after that, I met him at the airport and a group of 16 had come over.”
He said that numerous other groups had come to Shannon after being made aware of the ease of access by visiting representatives.
“Several groups of two to four people would have contacted me and said they were coming. The Union County Police and Fire Band came over and there were 74 of them. It’s estimated that if a couple stay here for two nights, they spend in the region of €500.”
Councillor McLoughlin said that the Union County Emerald Society pay the bills other than airfares and that the trip will come at some cost to himself. “I’m self-employed (he drives a hackney at Shannon Airport) and when I go out on council business I can’t work but if we can get people to visit Shannon, everyone will benefit.”
He said that the amount of publicity that Shannon receives through the visit in the local media in the US, far outweighs the cost of the flights.
Councillor Tony McMahon said that while he had doubted the importance of the trip at one time, his eyes had been opened after he travelled as mayor.
“Years ago, I would have been sceptical but, having experienced it myself, I’d feel that not only is it worthwhile, it’s absolutely essential. Shannon doesn’t get the necessary exposure in the US and it’s a great opportunity to get publicity. Whoever goes has to be prepared to work very hard and you get no time to yourself. One of the things that shocked me when I was there was that people didn’t know they could fly to Shannon and it gives a chance to make them aware that Shannon is a gateway to a lot of the country’s main attractions.”