IN Clare, we are rarely at the top of the political or business agenda.
This is a peripheral county, the kind of place that advocates of the neo-liberal economic approach of recent years are happy to sacrifice.
As the Mid-West’s manufacturing industry was being lost to low-wage economies 10 years ago, we were told it was just the natural order of things and to suck it up. When tech giants go to our capital, rather than to the Clares and Kerrys, we’re told something similar.
When previous broadband plans were shelved, it certainly was not a serious problem and as our airport declines, people like departing Transport Minister Shane Ross would find it almost preposterous that Government be required to do something about it.
Just over 70,000 people travelled between Shannon and Newark in 2019, many of them high-spending American tourists. This helped keep Clare’s tourism sector going, allowed people to pay mortgages, put shoes on children’s feet and enabled third-level students to get their education.
This week it has emerged that there won’t actually be a Shannon-Newark service in 2021, even if the pandemic passes.
The default response of recent Irish governments upon learning that such a thing has happened is to do precisely nothing. While our own local representatives would voice their regret, you could rely on Ministers for Tourism and Transport not to respond in any significant way.
The idea that they had any responsibility to those affected by the loss would hardly occur to them.
Shannon’s CEO Mary Considine has asked the region’s TDs for assistance to “ensure all services do not end up going into Dublin alone”.
One would hope that they heed her call and insist that the current laissez-faire approach to aviation, which has seen Dublin’s share of the Irish market reach new highs, be ended.
The formation of a new Oireachtas group on Shannon is indeed a positive development and one must hope that its members, including our own TDs, do everything they can to force the new Government to abandon the current approach to aviation, which has seen Dublin thrive at the expense of all other Irish airports.
Ever increasing domination of Dublin and the decline of rural Ireland is neither inevitable nor desirable but we do need Governments to realise this and act accordingly. Starting now.