Shannon Announcement is Momentous

The Government’s announcement today, in relation to the future of Shannon International Airport, its surrounding landbank and the Shannon Industrial Free Zone is a momentous moment not only for the airport but also for the wider Mid West Region

Did you know that in the late 70's the Concord was a regular visitor to
Shannon  for training flights. It was noisy but an amazing sight!
It will enable Shannon Airport to compete independently for business, without the dead hand of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) hanging over it.  Also, the placing of the landbank around Shannon Airport under the remit of the new Airport management structure will contribute immeasurably to the growth of the Shannon Free Zone.

Today marks 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.

I welcome Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar’s announcement today of a range of supports for aviation-related industry, which will be of immediate benefit to Shannon in attracting good quality jobs to the region. Furthermore while recent speculation that Ryanair will significantly increase services from Shannon cannot be confirmed, there is no doubt that the new Shannon Airport company will have absolute autonomy to carry out its own business in whatever way it chooses.

Bringing 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 that being currently 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.

Not everybody has embraced the separation from the DAA and I am aware that Fianna Fáil has some reservations on the matter. Even though the Government has been in place for just 18 months, it has undertaken a very substantial evaluation of the issues. Today’s announcement encompasses part of the original vision for Shannon when the Free Zone was established and bringing together the airport and the substantial landbank makes sense for the future viability of both the airport and jobs in the region.

While Fianna Fáil wants Aer Rianta International to be based in Shannon providing an income stream, I believe that the property portfolio to be vested in the new company will provide a capital base to ensure Shannon’s viability. The key is that the income generated by the industrial estates will move into the new body. The airport currently has €5.5m losses per annum, in my opinion no business model will work if it’s going to be subsidised to that amount per year. The future viability of Shannon does not come down to handing over a lump sum or even Aer Rianta International.

People say to me that an airport needs passengers, the way I see it is that the airport needs income. Already we know that Shannon Development takes in over €13m per year from the industrial estates. Take from that the cost of maintaining that property and you are still left with around €8-€9m per year in income. That will now be channelled to the new body providing the income to drive the marketing and promotion of new industries to invest here.

I remember former Clare T.D. Donal Carey once saying that if Shannon goes well then the region will go well. We want this region to really grow and the only way we are going to do that is with a newly created management structure. If we can all work together on this over the next few years, I believe we’ll see a massive change of fortune for Shannon and the wider region.

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Tony Mulcahy

Tony Mulcahy

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The reason I put this Blog up was to gather the views of as many of the people of Clare as possible.

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