THE newly formed Friends of Shannon Airport held its inaugural meeting recently at the Oakwood Arms Hotel.
Officials have been elected within the group and it will now embark on setting up its operating structure and establishing a programme of activity to support the airport, as it continues on the growth path it began when it was separated from the Dublin Airport Authority.
The origins of the group date to a 2014 meeting at the airport, which facilitated requests from people keen to see how they could support Shannon.
To date, members of the public from Clare, Limerick, Galway, Tipperary and Cork have shown an interest in getting involved.
Shannon Group CEO, Neil Pakey, said the enthusiasm of the Friends of Shannon Airport members and the sense of volunteerism is very encouraging.
“There is a really strong sense of community around Shannon Airport and a sense of belonging that stretches far and wide, up the west coast, deep into the midlands and south to Cork and Kerry. It’s very encouraging that this initiative has been met with such strong pledges of support and we look forward to a long and enjoyable journey with everyone involved.
“There are a small number of such groups internationally and experience demonstrates that they play a vital supporting role to the airport, by providing many ways for supporters to quite simpy embed the airport deeper into the communities. Based on the relationship between Shannon and the region and, indeed, the spirit of volunteerism locally, I have no doubt FOSA will have a hugely beneficial impact on the airport and customers using it.”
The Clare Volunteer Centre, which is part of the national network of volunteer centres that assist in establishing and supporting volunteer groups, played a key role in getting FOSA off the ground. It facilitated initial meetings and devised the structures to ensure the group has a clear brief and terms of reference, which complement the needs of the airport.
Sharon Meaney, manager of the Clare Volunteer Centre, said the skillsets and experience of those who have already offered their support will ensure that it gets off to the best possible start.
“The people who stepped forward and put their hands up for the Friends of Shannon Airport comprise an excellent mix, in that they are highly skilled, have vast experience in relevant areas and there is also a really good spread in terms of age profile. The common denominator for all of them is that they genuinely want to see the development and success of Shannon Airport and that is a huge plus. We can only see this building, with more volunteers coming forward in the months and years ahead.”
Though independent of Shannon Group, the new group will have a hot-desk at the airport to operate from when required. They aim to develop deeper community involvement with the airport through a range of activities that will be supplementary to anything currently taking place at the airport.
Future activities are likely to include developing an airport ambassadors programme to welcome and assist passengers on arrival and the establishment of a national school tours programme.
The committee of Friends of Shannon Airport includes: chairman, John Quinlivan; vice-chair, Sant Singh; secretary, Joe Meaney and treasurer, Donna Marie O’Neill.
Mr Quinlivan said, “Shannon Airport is the region’s best asset. The airport has always been an important part of the local community and the wider region and has fantastic community support. We look forward to supporting the excellent work done by Shannon Group”.
By Owen Ryan