Shannon proposed as hub for global aid

 

THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs is advancing moves to establish a global humanitarian hub at Shannon Airport, it has emerged.

The plan to establish the hub at Shannon is set out in the programme for government and now the department has commissioned a study to determine the feasibility. The study will also assess the potential level of demand for a facility at Shannon by humanitarian organisations, including governments, the United Nations, European Union, Red Cross agencies and NGOs.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore had proposed the hub during the Labour leader’s constituency visit to Clare last January.

The Tánaiste said the airport had all the necessary infrastructure to facilitate a new centre where emergency food and medical supplies could be stored before they are transported rapidly to a disaster zone after a global emergency.

Already, as part of the planned hub, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Jan O’Sullivan and officials from Irish Aid have held a number of meetings with Shannon Airport representatives and other interested parties to discuss the potential of establishing the hub at Shannon.

According to the terms of reference for the feasibility study, “following on from these initial conversations, it has been agreed that the department should undertake a feasibility study to ascertain the viability and management cost of the ideas involved and ways in which they could realistically be taken forward”.

According to the department, “the purpose of the study is to provide an independent, evidence-based assessment of the viability and value for money of a potential global humanitarian hub at Shannon and to identify practical ways in which this might be realised”.

The study will chart the logistical and warehousing arrangements the international humanitarian system has in place, including those operated by the World Food Programme through its UN network as well as by Unicef at its main supply hub in Copenhagen.

A spokesman for the Shannon Airport Authority said yesterday: “We welcome this feasibility study, which is an important part of the process. We will be working closely with and supporting the consultants on the study and look forward to its outcome.”

Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey said: “The proposal to develop what could become a new multimillion euro global logistics centre for humanitarian aid highlights the sheer potential offered by Shannon airport in terms of cargo and other logistical facilities.”

He said: “I believe that it makes perfect sense to have a country such as ours as a base for EU humanitarian aid. As I understand it, currently much of that humanitarian aid is stored in Malaysia and I see no reason why it should not be stored in Europe, within closer proximity to its source.”

He added: “Shannon Airport, in my view, is perfectly placed, in terms of its geographic location and easy access to international routes, to be an international humanitarian hub.”