The appointment of Mary Considine as chief executive of the Shannon Group has been described by Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey as an opportunity to restore the spirit of enterprise that underpinned Shannon’s transition as an independent entity in 2012.

Congratulating Ms Considine on her new role, Deputy Carey said it brought an element of stability to an organisation that lost two chief executives in less than two years and, having served as both deputy and acting chief executive, she was well aware of the challenges that lay ahead for the Shannon Group.

“It’s time to rekindle the pioneering spirit that came with the airport’s separation from the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) seven years ago and Shannon should now be aiming to double its passenger numbers to 3.5 million from its current level of 1.7 million,” he said.

“The primary responsibility is on the Shannon Group to take full advantage of any opportunity that presents itself and the hope is that Ms Considine will follow in the tradition of home grown innovators such as Brendan O’Regan and Liam Skelly to lead the airport towards achieving its potential.

“As Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Rural and Community Affairs, I have been promoting Shannon as a key player in achieving balanced regional development and I am offering Ms Considine every assistance I can give to helping her achieve that ambition. 

“Minister of State for Transport Brendan Griffin is visiting Shannon this week at my request and I want this to mark the beginning of a meaningful and structured engagement with key local stakeholders, the Department of Transport and outside players such as the DAA

“One of the immediate priorities has to be the implementation of a strategy to take full advantage of the newly established route development fund announced in the recent budget.

“€2.5 million is being made available this year to airports outside of Dublin on a competitive basis to develop key routes. This fund will grow to €10 million over the next three years so it’s a significant development which we must harnessed for the benefit of the entire Mid-West and West Region,” Deputy Carey explained.

“The appointment of a new chief executive comes at an opportune time for the Shannon Group, just two weeks after the publication of a major report by Danish international consultancy group Copenhagen Economics which concluded that aviation and enterprise policy must be linked if the Government is to deliver on its policy of achieving balanced regional development.

“Having worked with the Taoiseach to achieve Shannon’s independence from the Dublin Airport Authority during his term as Transport Minister, I have made it clear to him that it is essential that the Government supports this report in the interests of balanced regional development. This is also a national issue because Shannon adds up to €3.6 billion to Ireland’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supports 43,700 jobs” he said.

“At peak periods, only 45 percent of the capacity at the airport is utilised.This spare capacity offers untapped potential to deliver balanced regional development without requiring new investments. It would also alleviate the pressure on Dublin and reduce the need for costly infrastructure spending.

“The Copenhagen report concluded that if Shannon was to establish a frequent route to Frankfurt Airport with two flights every weekday and one flight on the weekend it would generate an additional €412 million in GDP.

“Governmental support for this route could be warranted as part of the implementation of the regional spatial and economic strategy for the Southern region, where international financial services are an integral part of the smart specialisation and clustering strategy.

“Along with making the case for subventing the Frankfurt service, there is also a responsibility on the management team at Shannon to ensure their operations and infrastructure continue to be efficient. They should also explore additional revenue opportunities in the area of cargo traffic,” Deputy Carey concluded.