THE SHANNON STOP

 

Sir, - So even a former Taoiseach like Dr Garret FitzGerald can fall into the trap of confusing the fortunes of his old employer, Aer Lingus, with the development of tourism. His column of August 10th, which set out to discuss tourism, turned into a review of the performance of the national airline.

Odd, too, that Dr FitzGerald should now be contending that the Shannon stop should have gone much earlier, but for the fixation of a succession of governments over a marginal Dail seat in Clare. Dr FitzGerald will surely be aware of the "Survival In A Bloodbath" paper delivered to the Institute of Transport by a senior Aer Lingus executive, Micheal O Riain (brother of the former Fine Gael Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan), which vigorously argued against direct American flights into Dublin. That was in 1983, when Dr FitzGerald was Taoiseach. Either Aer Lingus was not listening to the wisdom of its former employee, or Dr FitzGerald was not listening to Aer Lingus.

The temptation to rewrite history also distorts the facts of the rising volume of US tourists coming into the country from the United Kingdom. One of the most forceful arguments put to the Shannon lobby during the stopover debate was that opening up Dublin to direct flights would help to recover the transatlantic traffic lost to UK airports through "backtrack" visitors.

Vindicating Dr FitzGerald's concern, the exact opposite has been the case, with an enormous rise of 112 per cent in this traffic segment in 1993 to 1995, after the dismantling of the Shannon stopover. And to make matters worse, the Fine Gael Minister of Tourism, Enda Kenny TD, trumpeted the deal he made on St Patrick's Day, 1994, with British Airways to carry Ireland bound American passengers into England first. - Yours, etc.,

SIGNAL workers lobby,

Shannon Airport Co. Clare.