CLARE Deputy Cathal Crowe has emphasised the importance of the new Programme for Government delivering on regional development in the wake of stinging criticism of the lack of a senior cabinet minister from the West of Ireland.
Deputy Crowe admitted he would have loved to have seen a senior minister from the Mid-West appointed to the cabinet.
In an interview with the Clare Champion, he acknowledged quite a number of people had contacted him to express their concern about the lack of a senior minister from the region.
However, the former Meelick Councillor pointed out he also respected it is the prerogative of the three party leaders to put forward names of deputies to become members of the cabinet.
He was optimistic that the perceived geographical imbalance would be addressed by the appointment of junior ministers from the region.
“It is always a good thing to have a minister in a county of from a region but we have seen an example of Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring in the outgoing government who was situated a long way away from Clare but he was particularly generous to this county and was cognisant of our needs.
“Where a minister lives is only one aspect of who they are. The most important thing is that the Programme for Government strikes a regional balance and it is delivered by deputies on the ground,” he said.
Despite criticism of newly-elected Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s failure to promote his deputy leader, Dara Calleary to a senior cabinet portfolio, Deputy Crowe doesn’t think the gloss is already gone from Mr Martin’s start of his term as Taoiseach.
“A lot of people are now hopeful that the Programme for Government and the stability of a new government is a good thing.
“There are disappointed people in all parties. Fianna Fáil had 37 deputies and only seven could be promoted.
“I would love to be a minister at some time in my career and yet I am very realistic in my expectations. I am only after being elected to the Dáil. My expectations were low but nonetheless it is something I would like to serve in at some point in my career.
“Other deputies who have served a lot longer than me would have higher expectations. Mathematically, there will always be people disappointed but I think this will be addressed when junior ministers are announced,” he said.
He identified the revitalisation of Shannon Airport and tourism as some of his key priorities and warned the solvency of the Shannon Airport could come into question next year without state aid.
Welcoming the allocation of €6.1 million for baggage handling and other facilities in Shannon, he pointed out this funding takes some of the necessary capital expenditure off the books for the Shannon Group.
“The real litmus test is how Shannon Airport retains and attracts new routes. That will be a major challenge during Covid-19 with health advice not to engage in foreign travel.
“With these conflicting views, the need for government intervention is more urgent than ever. I expect this will be one of the key recommendations that will come out of the aviation task report in July.
“When I proposed the aviation task force a month ago, that is what I anticipated. The situation is extremely volatile with Ryanair threatening to pull its bases in Shannon and Cork,” he said.