CLARE County Council should be represented on the board of Shannon Group, Senator Martin Conway claimed in the Seanad, at a debate attended by Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Hildegarde Naughton.
“Whatever future structure (for Shannon Group) is being considered, though, there must be linkages with people who know tourism. Clare County Council, in particular, has a fantastic record of building tourism numbers and products, for example, the Cliffs of Moher visitor experience,” said the North Clare Senator.
“Clare County Council built the cliffs from 400,000 or 500,000 visitors per year to almost two million in 2019. That type of expertise will help to inform those of us in the region. Whatever new structure is put in place in Shannon, the input must be balanced and professional and have the linkages that we need,” he added.
Clare County Council have long sought influence with Shannon Group and while former Chief Executive Tom Coughlan was on its board for some time, it hasn’t had a representative in more recent years.
During the course of the same debate, Senator Timmy Dooley urged some help be given to Shannon Airport workers, who are in financial trouble as a result of being temporarily laid off or who have been put on part time hours. “We have work to do in the short-term to address the significant fallout from the pandemic for employees of Shannon Airport. Many of them are temporarily laid off or are back at work part time. They are finding it impossible to meet their commitments, notwithstanding the temporary wage subsidy scheme, and are struggling to survive.
“Workers had a standard of living built up around expected income. They are now under pressure which they never would have expected with mortgage repayments, education fees, car loans and all the normal expenditure. “I am not saying that they work in a protected sector, but the workers would never have experienced anything like this before. There are people who have always known that they work in a precarious environment, but this is not the case with the employees of Shannon Airport. It has been a bolt out of the blue for those working for the airlines and in the airport.”
Senator Dooley also called for key routes, those linking Shannon with Heathrow and the east coast of America, to be protected. “I put it to the Minister of State that the principal business and tourism routes are Shannon to Heathrow in England and from Shannon to New York and Boston on the east coast of the United States. People who live in my area will say that it is important to have support for the Shannon to Marbella route because they may have a holiday in the region.
“I will not advance that argument, but instead call for support to be given to the key routes that are important for tourism and business, thus giving Shannon Airport, the airport of the midwest, a chance to remain in existence during both this very difficult period and the really difficult time to come, when economic activity starts to ramp up again and when aviation resumes on a European and worldwide basis.”