COMMENT: Non-Appointment Of Shannon Group Chair Raises Further Questions

This week, Gavin gives his two cents on the u-turn regarding the appointment of a new Chair to the Shannon Group board

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A “sorry saga.” A “mess.” “Not good enough.” All terms used to describe the botched appointment of a new Chairperson to the board of Shannon Group this week. The only description messing, with a hat-tip to Malcolm Tucker, was “omnishambles.”

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You’ll be familiar with the facts by now. Businessman Aaron Forde was announced as the new Chairperson designate, an incredibly important role for this region. Hours later, after the emergence of tweets that he had previously sent, his appointment was withdrawn and Mr. Forde then issued a fulsome letter of apology. By then he had also deleted his account, only a couple of hours – ironically – after he sent a tweet declaring his pride at becoming the new Chairperson of Shannon Group.

It is clear that the language used by Mr. Forde in at least one tweet was not up to the standard expected. But it is not clear, yet, how he was even appointed in the first place when these tweets were in existence. The Minister of Transport spoke with Aaron Forde by telephone only after his Department was contacted by a journalist, and asked about these tweets. That happened only a few short hours after his appointment was announced. In other words, these tweets weren’t hard to find. They should have been found. This could, and should have been avoided.

We do not yet know why that did not happen. And at this stage – apart from the importance of getting the right person into that role – this is the important part of the story, to my eyes. Where is the political scrutiny on this matter? Where are the national media?

On Thursday, Minister Eamon Ryan gave at least two broadcast interviews to RTE and Virgin Media. And while I accept, during these times, there are pressing matters at hand, it was quite telling that neither interviewer decided to raise this whole debacle. This occurred within the Minister’s Department, remember. And it’s not all the media’s fault. The political silence around this matter, outside of the MidWest, has been deafening.

Don’t you think things might be different if this was, for example, the Dublin Airport Authority? I do. There’s no way RTÉ and others wouldn’t be haranguing the Department, looking for answers, if this was any number of other State Boards. But not Shannon Group. One also wonders if the issues would have been avoided in the first place, if we were talking about a different State authority. But that’s speculation.

If the focus is not on Shannon Group in the way that we in this region feels it needs to be, that’s bad news for us all, especially when the travel industry in facing an unprecedented crisis. I don’t blame our local Oireachtas members on this – they’re seven voices out of 220, remember. They will fight for Shannon, and we here in Clare FM will do the same. But for other parts of our political system, and other media outlets, the evidence suggests that this isn’t the case.