Shannon Chamber outlines issues impacting the development of Shannon and wider region at luncheon event with Minister Darragh O’Brien

Darragh O’Brien TD, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Housing pictured at the Shannon Chamber lunch in Dromoland Castle Hotel with (from left): Eoin Gavin, President, Shannon Chamber; Colin MacDonald, chief executive, Fine Grain Property; and Helen Downes, chief executive, Shannon Chamber. Photograph by Eamon Ward


As the business representative organisation for Shannon and the wider hinterland, Shannon Chamber president Eoin Gavin took the opportunity to outline a number of economic development issues requiring Government intervention at a recent Chamber luncheon event held in Dromoland Castle House, at which Darragh O’Brien TD, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage was the keynote speaker.

Focusing in on the three key areas: housing, the preparation of Designated Marine Area Plans (DMAPS) to enable the development of an offshore wind energy sector off the west coast, and funding to enable the delivery of the Shannon Town Centre Masterplan and, Mr Gavin stated that these were all stumbling blocks hindering the development of Shannon and the region.

Referring to the lack of housing and its impact on companies’ ability to recruit and retain staff, Mr Gavin said that it was too grave an issue to be ignored. He listed the obstacles that are hindering housing infrastructure development, most notably the availability of zoned and serviced land for housing. He also said that many Chamber member companies have been left with no option but to seek solutions to the issue by purchasing apartments and houses or retrofitting and reconfiguring previously unoccupied premises to house their employees.

In his response, speaking at the lunch, Minister O’Brien emphasised the progress which was being made in terms of housing, including in the Shannon region, but that much more was needed: “It’s very useful to have the opportunity to speak with members of Shannon Chamber, to inform them of progress being made and the trajectory we’re on, but also to hear from them the challenges they face in their respective businesses. Since 2020, the year this Government entered office, more than 100,000 new homes have been built. The pipeline of commencements is also very encouraging with building starting on 32,081 new homes in 2023 – the highest number of commencements for a single year since the records began a decade ago. I am confident that we will continue to build on this progress, across the country, and in the Shannon region.”

Chief Executive of Fine Grain Property, Colin MacDonald, sponsor of the event, commenting on why housing is critical for economic development said that in providing 2million sq. ft., of office accommodation for 60 companies in its 19 properties throughout Ireland, including Westpark Innovation Campus in Shannon, the company is acutely aware that many of its client companies have massive investment plans but face the challenge of where to house additional employees.

With sixty-thousand square feet of the company’s three-hundred-thousand square feet of office space in Westpark available to potential investment, Mr MacDonald questioned where the additional 500 people this building can hold would live should they arrive in Shannon. He said that Fine Grain Property, in conjunction with Shannon Chamber, is conducting a survey of companies in Shannon to assess the impact the lack of housing is having on their growth plans and that the survey results will be published when available.

Turning his attention to the second issue impacting the realisation of the region’s economic potential, the development of a floating offshore wind sector off Ireland’s west coast, Chamber president Eoin Gavin questioned why the first Designated Offshore Area Plan (DMAP) proposal will be located off the south coast of Ireland, given the extensive work that has been put into the preparation and delivery of the Shannon Estuary Economic Taskforce Report.

DMAPS determine the broad area where offshore renewable energy projects can be developed and act as a management plan for a specific area of our marine waters. With expertise in Clare County Council to undertake DMAPPING, Mr Gavin urged Minister O’Brien to designate the Council to expedite the marine mapping of the Atlantic, as permissible under the Maritime Area Planning Act 2021.

“This would progress the development of the floating offshore wind sector in Ireland,” he stated.

Zoning in on the delivery of the Shannon Town Centre Masterplan, which Shannon Chamber has been closely associated with since 2020, when it collaborated with its members to make a submission to the public consultation phase, Mr Gavin stressed the urgency in attaining funding for the delivery of the first phase of this plan, the OneShannonHub.

“Multiple masterplans have been prepared for Shannon but have never been delivered. We don’t want this latest plan to suffer the same fate,” he said.

Calling on the Minister to include the OneShannonHub in the next Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) call for funding, Mr Gavin said that it was imperative that Shannon be given priority in terms of investment.

“With design plans for the OneShannonHub at an advanced stage, it is imperative that funding to bring it through to implementation is given priority consideration under the next round of URDF funding. The spillover benefits of doing so will lead to the dawn of a new era for Shannon,” he said.

Speaking after the event, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes said she was encouraged by the Minister’s response to the request for URDF funding, given the Minister’s understanding of the need to develop Shannon to its fullest potential and the very positive engagement between his Department and Clare County Council.

“Shannon Chamber will continue to advocate on issues that impact Shannon and the region until a positive outcome is attained and the region’s potential is realised,” she said.

The Shannon Chamber luncheon event was sponsored by Fine Grain Property and supported by Clare County Council, Ei Electronics, Dromoland Castle Hotel and Shannon Chamber Skillnet. Guest attendees included Councillor Chaman Lal, Lord Mayor of Birmingham and Lady Mayoress, Vidya Wati.


Darragh O’Brien TD, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Housing pictured at the Shannon Chamber lunch in Dromoland Castle Hotel with (from left): Eoin Gavin, President, Shannon Chamber, Joe Cooney, Cathaoirleach, Clare County Council; Helen Downes, chief executive, Shannon Chamber; and guests of honour, Councillor Chaman Lal, Lord Mayor of Birmingham and Lady Mayoress, Vidya Wati. Photo by Eamon Ward.