Press Statement Kieran O’ Donnell TD Wednesday 10th June 2020
Stimulus Package needed for Shannon Airport and Shannon Heritage Tourist Attractions -O’Donnell
- Deputy O’Donnell has called for all Shannon Heritage sites to be reopened on 29th June
- Transport Minister agrees to O’Donnell’s request for Shannon Group inclusion in “Taskforce for Aviation Recovery”.
To counteract the impact of Covid-19, Limerick Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell believes that a comprehensive stimulus package is required for the Shannon Group activities, including Shannon Airport and a reopening of all Shannon Heritage sites on the 29th June. Yesterday, following a request from the all-party Shannon Airport Oireachtas group, a meeting took place with the Shannon Airport CEO Mary Considine & Chairperson Rose Hynes to discuss the situation facing the Shannon Group and its recovery plan from Covid-19. At this meeting, the Shannon Group gave a commitment to provide a specific funding requirement recovery proposal to the Shannon Airport Oireachtas members, which would be also submitted to Government.
“Yesterday, I spoke at an Oireachtas Representatives meeting with Shannon Group Board Chairperson Rose Hynes and CEO Mary Considine and called for the Shannon Group to submit a comprehensive funding proposal to Government to cover the Airport and Shannon Heritage activities. In a frank and positive exchange of views, we spoke about expediting the resumption of Heathrow and transatlantic routes at Shannon as well as the reopening of Shannon Heritage tourist attractions. The group have committed to preparing and submitting an enhanced recovery plan funding requirements proposal covering all activities, including Shannon Heritage.
“The Shannon group indicated that they were expecting the Aer Lingus Shannon to Heathrow route to resume in September, with their transatlantic operation a short time later. Whilst, public health considerations are key, we have to look at expediating the resumption of these and other flights as quickly as possible, including looking at Air Bridges and the 14 day quarantine period.
“Currently, there 159 employees in Shannon Heritage, many of whom will not be returning to work as many of the Shannon heritage tourist attractions are not down for re-opening. Whilst it is to be welcomed that the two high profile attractions of Kings John Castle in Limerick and Bunratty Castle are reopening on 29th June, they only remain open to the end of August, when it should be year-round. Overall, this is causing a great degree of worry and concern for the Shannon Heritage staff for their future, apart from the impact on the region that tourist attractions are not open.
“Based on a Shannon Group report, it is noteworthy that 35% of visitors to Shannon Heritage sites are from the domestic Irish market. Furthermore, Shannon Heritage contributes €28m valued added to the region, and 840 direct and indirect jobs. I accept we are in COVID-19 period, but, this is also about the impact on the region and on the employees. Until such a time as the international tourist market can recover, in this Coivid19 climate, we must think outside the box and look to ways of marketing these sites to attract more Irish visitors to the region.
“Following the meeting, the Oireachtas Group reiterated our request in writing to CEO Shannon Group, Mary Considine. We also asked that the Shannon Heritage facilities should continue to be opened on a year round basis, due to their strategic critical value to the entire tourist industry in the region and this must form part of the Shannon Group’s request for Government support.
“In the Dail last week, Transport Minister Shane Ross agreed to my request for Shannon Group’s inclusion in the newly formed Taskforce for Aviation Recovery.
“In the short, medium and longer term – we need an overall strategy for a fully operational Shannon Group. Any funding request proposal should reflect this and have flexibility built in so we can maximise the domestic and international market as restrictions are eased.