Shannon-based Fine Gael Senator Tony Mulcahy has welcomed the Government’s decision to grant full autonomy to Shannon International Airport and merge Shannon Development and its existing tourism, enterprise and industry roles with other regional development agencies, including the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Failte Ireland and the new Airport Management structure.
The former Mayor of Shannon and Clare said autonomy would enable Shannon Airport to compete independently for business “without the dead hand of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA)”. He said the Government announcement in relation to an autonomous Shannon Airport and Free Zone marked the culmination of years of lobbying from public bodies, regional development agencies, private organisations and politicians in the Mid West Region
“As a member of Clare County Council in 2007, I was one of 32 Councillors to back a motion requesting that Shannon be freed from the shackles of the DAA after the Authority’s failure to prevent Aer Lingus from axing its Shannon to Heathrow services. It has taken five years for autonomy to be finally granted and I think this is a momentous moment not only for the airport but also for the wider Mid West Region,” Senator Mulcahy said.
He continued: “The focus now turns to identifying the exact make up of the new management structure at the airport, which I believe should include a representative from each of the major agencies in the Mid West as well as a selection of community and business leaders. The best way of driving the future development of the airport and the surrounding Free Zone is to have local and regional experts from the fields of business, tourism and aviation at the helm.”
On the issue of whether debt-free status would be granted to Shannon, Senator Mulcahy stated: “Discussions are presently taking place in relation to the debts that have built up at Shannon Airport through the years. I am confident these considerable debt issues will be resolved in the coming months and that the facility and its new management structure will be well placed to develop a new and progressive marketing and development strategy for the Airport and Free Zone by the time full autonomy is achieved.”
Senator Mulcahy said there were a number of ways in which new business could be secured at Shannon Airport. “Every effort must be made to entice low cost carriers such as Ryanair back to Shannon and to promote the airport as a low cost passenger hub. Furthermore, the customs and border pre-clearance facility should be extended to include U.S.-bound cargo traffic.”
“As the airport can no longer survive alone on air passengers travelling to and from the facility, the development of ancillary operations such as an international cargo hub is key to securing the future viability of Shannon Airport. Furthermore, the removal of the DAA’s influence over the airport will allow for the exploration of the development of a global logistics centre for humanitarian aid in Shannon, a proposal that has been put forward by Clare County Council in the Clare County Development Plan 2011-2017. Developments like this are feasible considering Shannon’s strategic location, the facility’s unrestricted runway, its round-the-clock operation and the availability of a large amount of space around the airport.
“Other possible developments that could be explored by the Airport’s new management structure, once established, are a residential flight school and a centre for space collaboration and research co-operation. Each of these proposals has been suggested in the past but their potential has never been fully investigated due to the overbearing influence of the DAA,” he said.
Senator Mulcahy suggested that the airport be renamed and rebranded once the transition had been completed. “I suggest renaming Shannon Airport as Shannon Brendan O’Regan Airport, in memory of a man whose entrepreneurial spirit was behind the establishment of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company and the world’s first Duty Free Shop at Shannon Airport.”
Meanwhile, Senator Mulcahy said the placing of the landbank around Shannon Airport, currently managed by Shannon Development, under the remit of the new Airport management structure would “contribute immeasurably” to the growth of the Shannon Free Zone.
“The proposal to bring the IDA on board to assist with industry placement in Shannon is a massive step in the right direction. Land must be available for investors to purchase at a much more competitive rate than what it is currently being offered. A reduction in this rate will attract investment from both existing and new clients.
“Furthermore, I believe that a proportion of the existing and future rental income from industrial estates in the Shannon Free Zone should be used for the refurbishment of the various estates and the promotion of the airport,” concluded Senator Mulcahy
Note To Editor:
- Senator Mulcahy is available for interview on 086-2436345