Simon Coveney TD., Minister for Foreign Affairs pictured in Ennis with (from left): Eoin Gavin, president; Helen Downes, chief executive; and Ian Barrett, director, Shannon Chamber. Photograph by Eamon Ward
Shannon Chamber welcomed the opportunity to meet with Simon Coveney TD., Minister for Foreign Affairs during his recent visit to Ennis. Joe Carey TD and Senator Martin Conway also attended. Chamber President Eoin Gavin, CEO Helen Downes and director Ian Barrett discussed several issues of importance to members and which the Chamber has already brought to the attention of Government.
Such issues included changes to the way agri-related products airway billed for Shannon but arriving at Dublin Airport are being processed through Border Custom Post (BCP). Cognitive of the fact that the BCP remains open at Shannon for goods entering Shannon, the issue of concern to Chamber members, both freight forwarders and manufacturing companies, relates to the transhipment of consignments that are airway billed for Shannon but arrive in Dublin Airport. Such consignments, which have always been sent via ‘flying truck’ to Shannon, can no longer clear BCP at Shannon and must be returned to Dublin BCP, incurring time and financial costs. This concern has been raised also with Minister Charlie McConalogue with a request that ‘flying trucks’, which are part of the flying mode and allowed in the legislation, should continue to be approved as an on-forwarding method in Ireland, as was heretofore permitted. This change is impacting both companies and freight forwarders and Shannon Chamber is having ongoing discussions with the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue TD and local elected representatives on this revised interpretation of regulations by Department of Agriculture officials.
The current energy crisis was also discussed, and Minister Coveney was advised that Shannon Chamber, on behalf of its members, has submitted a comprehensive document to Government with recommendations on short to medium and long-term measures that could be adopted to address the national energy crisis. This was done against a background where firms of all sizes and categories of activity are very worried about dramatic increases in energy costs and have concerns regarding security of supply over the coming months.
Enterprises right across the board regard the energy crisis as a fundamental stumbling block to their operations at present. It also represents a real threat to jobs and, in some cases, to the very survival of companies. This comes at a time when they are already trying to cope with the aftermath of Covid, Brexit, supply chain constraints, labour shortages and the rising cost of living generally. Multinationals in the Shannon area are being pressurised because of the massive energy price increases, adding to other pressures on costs. Being part of global corporations with multiple plants, they are at risk from a cost efficiency viewpoint internationally. For instance, American and Asian energy costs are not increasing as much as in Ireland and Europe. Spiralling energy costs and question marks over security of supply were discussed by the Chamber, who welcomed the supports communicated in Budget 2023 and commented that these supports would need to be reviewed again in early 2023.
Energy price hikes and uncertainty of supply also add greatly to the existing challenges facing the SME sector – energy costs are a very significant portion of their outlay in many cases and can seriously impact on their viability.
This meeting with Minister Coveney also included discussion on the necessity for exploring the potential of the west coast of Ireland as an offshore renewable energy source.
Another topic discussed was enabling the successful transition of Shannon Heritage sites to Clare County Council and a speedy conclusion to the work of the cross-departmental group set up to manage the transition. As a chamber representing over 300 members extending to 15,000 employees in the region, Shannon Chamber has already expressed to Government and the region’s elected representatives the pivotal role the heritage sites play in the economy of the Mid-West region, in attracting tourists to the area and in driving passenger traffic through Shannon Airport. A decision on the approval of funding to enable the transition to the Council should be considered urgent and vital as these sites cannot be neglected at a time when there has never been a greater need to develop all our resources for economic development, especially in the West of Ireland.
Commenting on the meeting, Chamber CEO said: “We were delighted to be given the opportunity to have a meeting with Minister Coveney included in his itinerary and thank Joe Carey TD for making the arrangements. We look forward to continuing the discussion with Government on these and other issues warranting attention. We extend our thanks to Minister Coveney for the time given to Shannon Chamber during his visit to Ennis.”