ROSE Hynes has been at the helm of Shannon Group since it was created, but her time could come to an end within weeks.
Last year a five year spell as chairman of the board came to a conclusion, but she was reappointed for a further 12 months. While it had been expected that she would be reappointed for another two years, and still may be, it is understood that this is not a done deal at this stage. It is understood that Ms Hynes would be open to remaining in the position going forward.
While Shannon Group has had some successes on the property side of its business over the last couple of years, the performance of Shannon Airport has been quite disappointing, and this was the case before the emergence of Covid-19.
This year has seen a number of calls for Ms Hynes to be replaced, with these coming from figures in local tourism and in politics.
On Tuesday Senator Timmy Dooley expressed a view that it is now time for change. “What I believe is now needed is a complete rethink of the separation process. Prior to Covid Shannon wasn’t able to compete with Dublin and win new business and fresh thinking, a new vision and a new team are required to take it forward,” he said.
The Fianna Fáil representative was one of the few voices in the region who opposed the separation of Shannon from Cork and Dublin, and he said that links with the other two State airports should be re-established. “Covid has decimated all aviation, decimated it, but we must recognise that we’ll get to the other side of Covid. There will be a vaccine or a cure and there will be a relaxation of traffic restrictions in due course, but Shannon was already in trouble. What is needed is a new direction and a new vision for the airport. Whether that’s re-establishing connections with Dublin and Cork with some kind of non competitive memorandum of understanding or the re-establishment of something that would model the old Aer Rianta, in a way that we are not competing all the time against Dublin for new business. Dublin, Cork and Shannon, in my view, post-Covid, will have to work in a collaborative way to share business. At the pace of growth of Dublin, the demand at Dublin and with the building of infrastructure at Dublin, Dublin can monopolize and cannibalize all the business for the rest of Ireland, if it is left unfettered.”
Policy needs to be adjusted so the increasing dominance of Dublin doesn’t continue. “There will have to be a refinement of aviation policy that ensures the West and the Mid West is not completely decimated in a post Covid environment where airlines will have taken very significant losses and will want to consolidate to just one base. We have to be very careful we don’t fall into that trap, that in a recovering aviation sector that not everything is centred on Dublin. That will be a challenge.”
He warned that if airlines do close their bases at smaller airports, they are unlikely to reopen them in the future.
Summing up, he said that a change of approach and of leadership are required. “I think it’s clear that we need a new direction and new leadership to take on the challenges that now exist.”