Counties Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary are three counties which, when joined together, make up the ‘Mid-West Region,’ latter which is also known the ‘Shannon Region,’ due to its close proximity and distinctive corridor carved out by the lower River Shannon and its basin.
At a specially convened meeting of Clare County Council this evening, the local authority’s 28 Elected Membership unanimously rejected any commitment from IAG that does not explicitly guarantee Aer Lingus’ long term commitment to services between Shannon Airport and London Heathrow.
This call follows IAG’s statement today that it will keep the Aer Lingus Heathrow slots for Irish routes for at least five years if the company’s proposed takeover is successful.
Clare County Council however, has warned that any guarantee that omits a specific reference to Shannon is “unacceptable” and that the Government should retain its 25.1% shareholding in the airline.
“If IAG chief executive Willie Walsh and his company were truly committed to maintaining and strengthening Aer Lingus then he would already have made clear moves towards appeasing the very real concerns of the people and businesses of the West of Ireland who have contributed to establishing the Shannon-Heathrow route as one of the airline’s flagship services,” said Cllr John Crowe, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council.
Speaking following this evening’s meeting, Cllr. Crowe confirmed the Members of Clare County Council are now calling on the Taoiseach, Minister for Finance and the Government to “unilaterally oppose” the sale of Aer Lingus and retain its 25.1% shareholding.
Members are also requesting that Aer Lingus management increase connectivity and levels of service to Shannon Airport to “ensure balanced regional development and on commercial grounds to grow market share for Aer Lingus.”
Cllr Crowe said he will be formally writing to An Taoiseach to outline the Council’s concerns, as expressed at this evening’s meeting.
“There is a sense of déjà-vu amongst my colleagues that Aer Lingus, under the guise of IAG, could repeat the woeful decision of the airline to remove Shannon’s Heathrow slots in 2007. It didn’t make commercial sense then nor does it now, but it is clear that IAG are unwilling to guarantee these slots in the future hence our unanimous opposition to the sale of the airline,” stated Councillor Crowe.
“Underpinning the significant developments in improving infrastructure and expanding the tourism and business sectors in the West of Ireland in recent years is proper access to this region. The Shannon-Heathrow link is of absolute critical, strategic importance to maintaining existing development in the industry and tourism area and to position the wider region for further growth and investment into the future.”
“The growth of Shannon Airport since separation from the DAA demonstrates the capacity of management at the airport to achieve future growth. It is critical the airport can continue to operate in an environment which facilitates such growth into the future. Any reduction in connectivity consequent to a sale to IAG would have a serious negative impact,” said Councillor Crowe.