A PROPOSED trade-off that will see Shannon Airport begin its independent era free of debt in return for the DAA keeping Aer Rianta International is nothing less than Dublin asset-stripping of Shannon, according to the aviation pioneers who, from Shannon, developed ARI into a hugely successful international business.
A final decision on autonomy for Shannon is expected to be announced by Government this week - and could come as soon as today - but Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has already signalled that Shannon was never going to have both a €100 million debt writedown and keep ARI.
That the DAA will keep the lucrative airport retail company is all but confirmed but former ARI executives who charted its international expansion have described this as “a total sham and an outrage”.
A statement has been signed by former ARI executives Liam Skelly, Michael Guerin, Michael Hanrahan and David Hope in which they describe how the Shannon team had expanded the business first into Russia and then into the Middle East during the 80s and 90s - and also acquired lucrative stakes in airports overseas which were later sold to benefit the parent Aer Rianta/DAA.
“This hugely innovative and profitable business was set up by a Shannon team who intended it to be for Shannon’s benefit only. This position would have been recognised and understood by all three airports - Dublin, Cork and Shannon,” the retired executives state.
That began to unravel with Seamus Brennan’s State Airports Act 2004, when Dublin politicians made claims on ARI, they add.
“All in, the DAA emerged with €720 million - monies from the sale of Aer Rianta assets (including stakes in overseas airports), ARI assets, ARI profits and the sale of the Great Southern Hotel Group. The DAA has made another €160m in profit from ARI since 2004.”
“The treatment meted out to Shannon through the State Airports’ Act was nothing short of appalling. The act should have been more correctly called the Dublin Airport Benefit Act. It was a total sham and an outrage to Shannon and how anybody would believe that giving Shannon a debt free status would compensate for this abominable treatment.
“There will, no doubt, be efforts made over the coming weeks to make the Shannon Region feel grateful for the proposed debt write-off of €100m. Instead, it is time we realised that the benefit is going entirely the other way – to Dublin.”