Michael McGrath TD, Minister for Finance pictured at Shannon Chamber President’s lunch in Dromoland Castle Hotel with (l-r): Kevin Thompstone, director, Shannon Chamber; Senator Timmy Dooley; Eoin Gavin, president, Shannon Chamber; Barry O’Sullivan, chair, Shannon Estuary Economic Task Force; Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber; and Cathal Crowe TD. Photo by Eamon Ward.
The collaboration and embedded linkage between industry, education and research in the Mid-West region has been a major contributory factor to employment growth in the region, which now stands at a quarter of a million people, an increase of thirty thousand since the pandemic.
This was one of many key messages delivered by the Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath, in his keynote address at Shannon Chamber’s President’s lunch in Dromoland Castle Hotel last week, where he described the Chamber as one of the most effective and active chambers in the country.
Stating that the Shannon Free Zone was the precursor to changes in Ireland’s economic model, he said that the region has always been to the fore in framing economic policy. He lauded the progress being made at Shannon Airport in increasing passenger numbers to over 2 million, an increase on the 2019 number of 1.8million and acknowledged the fundamentality of international connectivity to the region. With the review of the Regional Airports Programme almost complete, he said that the Government will continue to support the work of the Airport.
Turning his attention to Shannon Foynes Port, the second largest port and the largest bulk port in the country, he stressed the importance of supporting the development of road and rail transport links to Foynes. In referring to the port’s potential to contribute to the development of an offshore wind sector for Ireland, he thanked the Shannon Estuary Economic Taskforce for the ‘fine piece of work’ they undertook and said the Government is committed to delivering on the potential of the estuary.
Speaking about Shannon Town and the implementation of a new Masterplan for the town, Minister McGrath described the plan as an exciting roadmap and said that a fourth call of Urban and Rural Development Fund (URDF), opening in 2024, should provide opportunities for capital funding for the project.
Turning his attention to the national economy, he said that Ireland is in a good position with modified domestic demand growth, despite a weakness in GDP linked mainly to a reduction in exports in the pharmaceutical sector. With 2.7m people now in employment in Ireland, he said that this was a key measure of the health of the economy. Thanking companies at the luncheon, and Shannon Chamber members generally, for the jobs, livelihoods, and quality of life they provide to the local and regional economies, he said they had a partner, in Government, to work with them to deliver.
In his introductory remarks, Shannon Chamber president, Eoin Gavin, said that the Chamber continually strives to cultivate an environment where enterprise can grow and that is why its name appears frequently in emails to Government Ministers, Department Officials and to local Oireachtas members.
“We are constantly lobbying to influence positive outcomes on issues that impact our members and, or, this region,” he said.
Focusing in on an issue of importance to Shannon and the region he called on the Government to support the delivery of the Shannon Town Centre Masterplan.
“We hope that the Government will demonstrate a commitment to Shannon, though including funding for Phase 1 of this Plan – the delivery of the first building – the OneShannonHub – in the next round of URDF funding,” he said.
Zoning in on another Chamber objective, enabling Shannon and the region to play a meaningful role in Ireland attaining its national carbon emission reduction targets, Mr Gavin said that through establishing a Mid-West Sustainability Network, the Chamber is working to position Shannon and the region as an exemplar contributor to sustainable development.
Citing power as a burning platform in boardrooms, he stressed the importance of developing the floating offshore wind sector, and reiterated the key asks put forward by the Shannon Estuary Economic Task Force
“This sector is so important to Ireland, we simply must move forward at pace, and through collaboration. The outcomes will be as great as the impact the establishment of Ardnacrusha and Shannon Free Zone had on the national economy in past decades,” he said.
While presentations from both the Minister and the Chamber president were the focus of the luncheon, the pupils from two Shannon secondary schools – St. Patrick’s Comprehensive School and St. Caimin’s Community School – kept the Minister engaged, as they questioned whether the Government has enough money in the Budget to tackle the housing and pyrite problems, why they should consider politics as a career, and if Ireland is actually in a recession.
Fielding all questions, Minister McGrath described being a politician as an ‘incredible privilege’, which brings huge responsibilities, but that he knew from an early age where his career would be. Stating that there are different ways into politics, he called on those with business and life experience to put this to use for a common good and consider entering the political arena.
The Shannon Chamber President’s Lunch, held in Dromoland Castle Hotel, was sponsored by Clare County Council and supported by Vhi, Shannon Chamber Skillnet, Dromoland Castle Hotel and Irish Rail.
Michael McGrath TD, Minister for Finance pictured at Shannon Chamber President’s lunch with Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber and pupils and teacher, Tomás Quealy, from St. Caimin’s Community School in Shannon. Photo by Eamon Ward.