THE Government needs to make the protection of Shannon’s Heathrow connectivity a priority, airport management have said.
Rose Hynes was appointed chairman of Shannon Group under the current Government and she called for Shannon’s links to one of the world’s most significant hub airports to be protected.
“Aer Lingus is a valued airline partner at Shannon, operating services to our key markets. Heathrow is the single most important gateway for business to and from key international markets for Ireland. It’s essential that current slots and frequencies are retained and contractually protected for the individual Irish airports, including Shannnon. I expect the long-term protection of each Irish airport’s Heathrow slots will be a key priority for Government in it evaluation of this takeover bid.”
She welcomed the Taoiseach’s comments that the Government would look at factors beyond the monetary value of the takeover bid. “Connectivity through the Heathrow slots is, quite simply, vital for industry and business for the country as a whole, but particularly so outside of Dublin. It’s vital for the economy and for attracting inward investment and growing employment over the medium and long term. It’s a factor we expect Government to judiciously measure when considering the more immediate financial gain to the State which the sale would represent.”
Also this week, Ken Sullivan, executive director with long-established Shannon company, Element Six, warned that if the slots are lost, for the second time in less than a decade, the Mid-West will lose out.
“This region is every bit as dependent now on Shannon-Heathrow services as it was back in 2007, when the Shannon slots were moved temporarily to Belfast. The business community here united in opposition to that move and, this time around, the threat is not just to Shannon but also Cork and Dublin.”
He said the Government needs to make sure that there are assurances for Shannon if a deal is made.
“The Government, as a significant shareholder and in recognition of the threat this represents to the national interest, must reject any bid put to the board, unless the contract of sale includes a clause that ensures existing services between the three Irish airports and Heathrow are protected. This must be the very minimum the Government insists on.”
The consequences for his own company would be severe if the link goes and he warned it would make attracting new investment to Clare far more difficult.
“As a company, Element Six is a regular user of the Shannon-Heathrow route. Shannon is the only airport on the entire western seaboard with access to Heathrow, which gives one-stop connectivity to so many key international markets. Not having this access is simply not an option for us. These services help underpin our presence in Shannon and any threat to them could be detrimental to this region’s ability to attract further foreign direct investment.
“One of the first things multinationals will look for when considering investing in a region is does it have good connectivity to key global markets? Shannon currently has that but it will certainly not be good for this region, or indeed Cork or Dublin, if our airports were to lose Heathrow services.”