Shortlist of five candidates interviewed by Ministers Ryan and Naughton
FIVE people were in the final round of interviews for the position of chair of Shannon Group and a decision is expected by the end of September.
Responding to questions from Clare TDs Cathal Crowe and Violet Anne Wynne, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan told the Dáil the process of appointing a new person to the position, which has been vacant for more than a year, is in its final stages.
“The Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, and I have recently concluded interviews for potential candidates, who were proposed by the Public Appointments Service.
“All five people we interviewed were eminently qualified, which makes for a difficult decision. We hope to conclude that process within the coming days, and return to the Government and then to the Dáil with details of the appointment of a suitable chair.
“I am confident that we will be able to get someone who is very well qualified for the role.”
He said he expects the appointment to happen before the end of September.
The Minister also said that the new person will be coming in at a very difficult time.
He said that transatlantic travel will probably take some time to recover and there are other issues also.
“There will probably be a slow return (of transatlantic travel). There is no immediate return in sight of business travel and while there has been a significant return to travel for personal reasons, holidays and so on, it is still at a very low level compared to what was happening historically.
“One should not underestimate the challenge and crisis our aviation sector is in – Shannon Airport as much as any other airport.”
However he said there are some positive signs and he voiced his confidence in the management.
“I am encouraged since talking to officials this week that we are seeing a number of flights planned for right through the winter. The Shannon Airport to Heathrow Airport route has been restored, but there is only one flight per day.
“We would like to see that back to its pre-pandemic schedule of three flights per day in order that it facilitates business traffic.
“Whoever the chair is will have to work with what I see as a very good management team in the airport to get flights back.
“It will help that the group has been focused down now on the industrial estate building and the airport operations. It is appropriate that the heritage role has been taken on by the county council and local authorities.
“It is, therefore, focused and tighter. The job is to get those flights back and the region with them.”
Deputy Crowe stressed that Ms Hynes’ successor must have an appropriate business background.
“We do not want someone with an agribusiness or economist background. We need someone in Shannon who understands aviation to be the helmsman or helmswoman of an airport that for decades has been the economic catalyst in the Mid-West.”
Deputy Wynne criticised the handling of the vacancy over the last year.
“The role of the Minister and the Department in appointing the members of the board is also questionable. This is further exacerbated and demonstrated in that the track record is far from impressive.
“First, we had a six-month gap from the exiting of Rose Hynes in August 2020 and here we are, over 12 months later, with the appointment still left vacant. That is completely unacceptable and on the ground, the Clare folk feel the exact same.”