TAOISEACH Enda Kenny was this week unable to provide a timeframe on when legislation might be introduced to break up Shannon Development.
The agency is being dismantled under Government plans to separate Shannon Airport from the DAA and establish a new commercial state company responsible for running the airport and developing surrounding land assets currently owned by Shannon Development. Enterprise and tourism functions are to be transferred to the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Failte Ireland, with some staff retained in the new airport company - which is to begin life free of net debt.
Fianna Fail transport spokesman Timmy Dooley asked the Taoiseach when the Government intended to bring forward legislation to give effect to its plans.
“There is considerable concern in the region that the dismantling of the agency and the centralisation within the IDA and Enterprise Ireland of the services it provided will take from the capacity to retain the important (industrial) base that exists,” said the Clare TD.
The Taoiseach replied that Ministers Leo Varadkar and Richard Bruton were putting together a steering group on advancing the Government decision.
“If legislation is required to dispense parts of Shannon Development to Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, it will be brought forward in due course,” Mr Kenny said.
Deputy Dooley had expressed concern Shannon Airport was being “cut adrift and left to make do with the elements of Shannon Development the semi-state companies don’t want”.
“If the government is serious about the future of Shannon Airport and serious about securing investment in the region, it will quickly re-think its current strategy by retaining Shannon Development as a key driver for economic development and growth,” he stated.
A spokesperson for Shannon Development said chief executive Dr Vincent Cunnane would not be making any comment on the restructuring plans and that the company was “taking time to reflect”.
Staff at both Shannon Development, which employs 110, and Shannon Airport, which has over 200 staff, are concerned about what the plans will mean for them. Booz consultants, who recommended separating Shannon to Minister Varadkar, have warned that the cost base at the airport is too high.
Minister Varadkar has said there will be no compulsory redundancies at either agency while Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said negotiations with staff will be one of the first tasks of the steering group being set up to work out the finer details of securing Shannon’s future.
“The cost base is one of the key factors in Shannon and the number of people working in the two agencies contribute to cost base but nothing is decided,” Minister Noonan said. He expects the steering group to have “full and early discussions with the staff in both organisations”.
A full version of this report was published in the Limerick Leader, print edition, dated May 19, 2010