Leo and the Rabbits

Way back in the 1950s, James Dillon, a Fine Gael Minister,  predicted that before very long, rabbits would be running free on the runway at the then fledgling Shannon Airport.

Neither he nor Fine Gael were ever allowed to forget those words, which have been used as a rallying call during the many occasions in which the future of the airport has been at risk.

Now it seems Minister Leo Varadkar has a similar outlook for Shannon. Judging by his downbeat comments at the weekend,  the County Clare airport would seem to have no real future. He will not provide subsidies, he will not write off debt and he says that passenger numbers have fallen to a level at which Shannnon is no longer important.

Buit it is. Indeed it has a highly important strategic role to play in attracting visitors to the entire Western Seaboard, now that the Governmenr has effectively
closed down every other regional airport from Clare to Donegal.

Shannon's difficulties have been many and severe, but have only become critical since its management was bundled with that of Dublin Airport. The DAA has been disastrious for Shannon and its future is largely dependent on breaking that link. Given any decent chance,  the airport which invented Duty Free, which created the Ireland's first Industrial Zone, which pioneered pre-flight iimmigration and customs checks into the USA, which gave us Bunratty Castle and Folk Parkand  Rent an Irish Cottage, can tap into its proud history of innovation and once again re-invent itself. But it needs to be indepeendent and free of other people's debts.

The immediate future of Shannon may seem bleak, but when (rather than if) it survives, Leo's remarks at the week-end could well earn him the immortality of  Dillon's rabbits.

And he wouldn't want that.




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