During Clare County Council’s recent meeting at Shannon Airport, Rose Hynes acknowledged that a vacancy exists on the Shannon Group board but it is the responsibility of the Minister for Transport and the public appointments commission to appoint a replacement. This news coincided with a motion from independent councillor Gerry Flynn seeking to have a democratically mandated member of Clare County Council appointed to the board of directors. According to Cllr Flynn a democratic deficit exists with regard to the running of Shannon International Airport as a gateway to the West of Ireland.
Beginning by saying he would temper his remarks due to Ms Hynes positive input earlier, Cllr Flynn also noted that minutes of the council’s Corporate Policy Group show that the CEO, Pat Dowling, has formally written to the Shannon Group seeking participation on the board and to be a voice for Clare County Council and other neighbouring local authorities. While he supports Mr Dowling in his endeavours, Cllr Flynn said that does not address a democratic deficit that presently exists, hence he is seeking the appointment of a mandated public representative to the vacancy. He asked that this request be forwarded to Shannon Group and to Minister Shane Ross.
Outlining his motion Cllr Flynn stated: “Shannon Group PLC assumed the role of Shannon Development, the same company that built and nurtured Shannon Town until transferring responsibilities to Clare County Council in 2004. We share many mutual interests and, as councillors, we endeavour to work for the betterment of our county and the well-being of our citizens. In this regard we are strongly supportive of Shannon Airport and promote every effort to develop and improve services at the airport while helping to provide tourism and other facilities for those visitors who disembark in Shannon.
“Lately though, I have been concerned that our efforts are not being reciprocated. For instance, as a councillor and a local representative, I was contacted by business people in Ballycasey Craft & Design Centre who are seriously concerned about their future after receiving notification from Shannon Commercial Properties, a Shannon Group subsidiary, that it intends to dispose of their properties on the open market. Bear in mind that one of the oldest and most historical buildings in Shannon is Ballycasey House.
“Shannon Development built this centre and maintained cordial relations with the tenants over many years yet inside a short period of taking over it appeared that the Shannon Group was abandoning the project. For my part, I could offer these very worried business people little apart from my support, as I have absolutely no information regarding the intentions of Shannon Group.
“Shannon Group has a civic responsibility to our town and county, not least because it now has guardianship of huge tracts of public lands in six counties. But also because our futures are intrinsically bound together as is perfectly illustrated by the CFRAM study on flood risk management which pays particular attention to the embankments, a key responsibility we both share to ensure the future security and viability of Shannon Town and Shannon Airport.
“Finally, the council wishes to be in a position to influence and participate in decisions made on the future of the airport. I believe it is now time to put this council’s aspirations to right and appoint a mandated representative to the board. I sincerely hope that this motion receives the unanimous support of the members and the endorsement of Shannon Group PLC.”
Seconding the motion, Cllr Christy Curtin said the best person to represent the opinions of people in the county on the board is a democratically elected person. The motion was passed unopposed.