MINISTER of State Jan O’Sullivan has said she is hopeful that a proposal to develop a global humanitarian aid hub at Shannon Airport will get off the ground.
The plan was part of the Labour election manifesto and subsequently written into the programme for government.
Deputy O’Sullivan, who is the political head of the Irish Aid programme, confirmed this week that she has asked for a feasibility study to be carried out on the proposal.
The base would not just hold Irish Aid’s humanitarian supplies but could be part of a global network of such facilities used by United Nations agencies and international NGOs such as the Red Cross.
“I have decided to get a feasibility study drawn up to get the basic factual information on how Shannon could be used by the international aid community. I have already had meetings with the Clare county manager and with the Shannon Airport Authority and other interests in the region. There is no reason for this study to take too long to conclude and hopefully it will be finished by January,” Deputy O’Sullivan said.
Irish Aid’s response to the famine in the Horn of Africa involved shipping tents and medical supplies from Dubai, part of an international network of facilities used by the UN and donor countries that also includes Italy, Ghana, Panama and Malaysia.
“With Shannon, we are trying to see what niche areas might be appropriate. It might not be suitable for stocking larger items like tents which would be more appropriate closer to disaster areas,” she said.
“But medicines is one area that has potential. We have a big pharmaceutical industry here in Ireland and we also have the heads of agreement signed with Lynxs on the cargo terminal for Shannon. That would fit well with the proposal, given the plan for significant storage space with temperature controls.”
Asked how realistic hopes were for an employment boost at the airport, she said: “I would be hopeful, that is the reason it is in the programme for government - because we feel it is a viable proposition”.
“We certainly don’t have a problem with space in Shannon and we do have the capacity to provide such a facility.”
A spokesman for Shannon Airport said they looked forward to getting involved with the feasibility study.
“We will be working closely with and supporting the consultants on the study and look forward to its outcome,” he said.