Politicians tried to land both jobs and tourists
SHANNON Airport has been controversial ever since the decision was made to locate it on 760 acres of boggy land.
Former Fine Gael leader James Dillon, who predicted in the 1940s that rabbits would be playing leapfrog there, would have been interested to see Fine Gael Clare TDs Pat Breen and Joe Carey squeezing in behind Transport Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday as he finally announced independent status for the airport.
That is because all the local TDs understand that Shannon provides employment and brings in tourists. And the voters expect their TDs to do everything possible to save it.
That's why there was a backlash when the "Shannon Stopover" -- requiring US flights to land at the airport -- was relaxed and then abolished. There was a frenzy when Aer Lingus withdrew flights to Heathrow in 2007.
Shannon will now be able to set its own charges and compete properly -- free of Dublin Airport Authority's influence.
Pat Breen said yesterday that it could lead to the rebirth of Shannon's "enterprising spirit", given that it had been the first airport in the world to offer Irish coffee, the duty free shop and pre-clearance facilities for US-bound passengers.