New Shannon Group chairman departs over Twitter controversy

Aaron Forde apologises for ‘insensitive’ language as Eamon Ryan revokes appointment

Aaron Forde had been named as chairman of Shannon Group earlier on Tuesday. File photograph: Keith Arkins

Aaron Forde had been named as chairman of Shannon Group earlier on Tuesday. File photograph: Keith Arkins

 

The Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has announced that he will not be proceeding with the appointment of Aaron Forde as chairman of Shannon Group.

Mr Ryan had announced his appointment earlier on Tuesday.

In a phone conversation later on Tuesday, Mr Ryan indicated that Mr Forde’s use of social media was “below the standard expected of the chair of a state board.”

“This is an important time for Shannon Group, which has to chart a way through the crisis caused by the pandemic and plan for recovery. The Department of Transport will work to appoint a new chair as quickly as possible,” a spokeswoman said.

In his letter of resignation, Mr Forde said he wanted to “apologise unreservedly” for remarks he made on Twitter.

He wrote to Mr Ryan on Tuesday night and said: “further to our conversation this evening, I have reflected on my position and decided to withdraw from my appointment as chairperson of Shannon Group Plc.

“I wish to apologise unreservedly for remarks I made on Twitter which have become the subject of focus. The language used in a particular Tweet was wrong, insensitive and needless. I am truly sorry.”

He said he wanted to “apologise to people from the Traveller community”.

He added that he wanted to also “apologise to you personally and your government colleagues for the inconvenience and distraction this has caused at what is a crucial time for the country.”

“Throughout my over 30 year career to date, I have always strived to contribute professionally and thoughtfully in everything I do. As those who know me best will attest to, I am a passionate believer in the economic and social advancement of the country and the important contribution we can all make.”

Mr Forde’s Twitter account was deleted on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day the Government announced the appointment of Mr Forde as the new chairman of Shannon Group, responsible for the midwestern airport, a property business and tourist attractions, including Bunratty Castle in Co Clare.

He had expected to formally take up the five-year appointment following an appearance before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Networks.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has announced that he will not be proceeding with the appointment of Aaron Forde as chairman of Shannon Group.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has announced that he will not be proceeding with the appointment of Aaron Forde as chairman of Shannon Group.

The Department had said that “Mr. Forde has a track record at a senior level with international leadership experience gained across Ireland and the UK.”

Mr Forde was chief executive of Aurivo, the co-operative-owned maker of Donegal Creameries Milk and Connacht Gold spreads, for 16 years until 2019. He was chairman of Ornua, best known for Kerrygold butter, from 2013 to 2019, as well as the Sligo Economic Forum and the external advisory board of the Institute of Technology, Sligo.