COMMENT: Government Supports Can Only Go So Far, And Difficult Choices Need To Be Made

This week, Gavin assesses one of the big local stories of the week – Aer Lingus’ potential removal of aircraft from Shannon Airport – and asks how a possible bailout of the airline might be perceived by others who won’t be so fortunate to get that support.

***

When i first came to work in Clare FM over ten years ago, I recall being struck by just how proud people here are of Shannon Airport.

CONTINUE READING BELOW

Understandably so, given its history, its legacy of innovation, and most importantly the ongoing contribution it makes to the local economy. It’s not a coincidence that Shannon, along with health, often ends up dominating general election campaigns here in Clare, and – sometimes – our topics on Morning Focus.

That was the case once more this week with the revelation that Aer Lingus is considering moving aircraft away from Shannon, to a UK Airport, in a move that Padraig O’Ceidigh said would be the “biggest economic blow to the region in forty or fifty years.”

Striking words.

At the time of writing, Aer Lingus have made no comment on this story (they declined to do so when contacted by Clare FM), which means they haven’t denied that this will happen. Although, Deputy Joe Carey was emphatic on Tuesday morning’s programme when he said it “won’t” happen and that Aer Lingus will get government support, on the basis that the routes are maintained.

“Government will step up to the plate and will provide the necessary resources,” he said. Economically, not to mention politically, many will regard such intervention as being vital. But I wonder how many other companies will look on and wonder why they couldn’t get the same supports.

Now, the government does deserve credit for quickly making funds available to businesses throughout the country. While not perfect, the Restart Grant and other initiatives are welcome and should be commended. But in exceptionally difficult trading times, not every company can be saved. There will be bitterness from those who don’t get the funding that, it seems, will be made available to Aer Lingus. An airline is important to our island because we need connectivity to the outside world, of course. But a pub is important to a village and a large factory is important to the towns surrounding it – some of those will undoubtedly be victims of COVID-19.

Difficult choices will have to be made by Micheál Martin’s government, which – let’s face it – has gotten off to a rocky start. No matter what choices are made, there will be critics and detractors. There will be losers, as well as winners. There will be division at a time when the country will need unity.

The Taoiseach, and his government, face difficult times in the months ahead.