A FEW hours after Ryanair announced it would be closing its Shannon base for the coming winter, a casual visitor might have assumed that it had already happened.
Inside the Shannon terminal last Thursday five aside games of soccer could easily have been played without disturbing anyone, so empty was the building.
There was no sign of any passengers getting ready to leave or anyone having recently arrived. Shops were closed, there was a restaurant open, but all that were eating there were a handful of airport workers.
Quite understandably Shannon Group employees didn’t want to have their names attached to their opinions delivered to a newspaper, but there was an undeniable air of gloom from them as they spoke of the crisis facing Shannon. “The place is on its f**king knees, I don’t know what’s happening,” one observed, wearily.
Niall Gavin runs his own company, River International, and he was at the airport dropping off packages.
On the day that Ryanair announced its base closure there was little to be optimistic about, and he certainly wasn’t hopeful for Shannon. “It’s unreal, they’re hardly putting the lights on. The airport is finished I’d say, it’s hard to see a future for it.”
He feels that no one is really responsible for the current state of Shannon. “I wouldn’t blame anybody. The airlines go where the people are and they’re in Dublin. There’s a road to there and it only takes you two hours, that has changed things for here. Freight-wise, everything moves out by road, very little goes through the airport.”
Shannon hasn’t recovered from Ryanair’s decision to scale back operations at Shannon a number of years ago, he feels. “It just hasn’t happened since. It’s difficult to see in the current marketplace, where there’s a requirement for Shannon, if you take the emotion and the politics out of it. There’s an airport in Dublin, you can go there and catch a flight to anywhere. I think people around here need to be realistic about it.”
Self employed electrician Dermot McMahon was taking a break from work, accompanied by a couple of his employees.
He says around half of his business is with Shannon and he hopes it can be supported as passenger numbers have collapsed due to Covid-19. “It’s catastrophic really, you can see the state of the place, there’s nobody around. It’s very important that an airport like this is kept open for all the jobs that go with it, good quality jobs. Hopefully the people we have in the Dáil can pull out all the stops and make sure we keep this place going. It’s very important for the area.”
On a personal level, he says the Airport has been crucial to his business. “It’s been great to me, always great payers, pay on time, a very good client. It’s depressing really to see the place going down and down and down.”
The loss of Ryanair services was the latest blow in a disastrous year for Shannon, and he said things had actually been looking up pre-Covid. “The numbers were slowly creeping back up and they seemed to have a plan as to how they were going to keep the place going. It’s devastating.”
He said that many of the companies in the nearby Free Zone rely on the services from the airport, and he reiterated that the region’s politicians need to use their influence. “We have to make our voice heard up in the Dáil to say that this place has to be kept going.”