DEIRDRE Clune, Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, has some serious questions to answer. Cheerleader and head honcho for Cork Airport lobbyists, her political popularity grew in proportion to the efforts she put in to secure transatlantic flights from Cork to America. In that, she performed admirably and all credit is due to her!
Indeed, last week, everyone believed Ms Clune had won the battle when Norwegian Air International announced it would operate three weekly flights to Providence, Rhode Island. At last, Cork would have a direct air link to the United States. Mild euphoria greeted the news and doubles all round were the order of the day among her Leeside business chums who had supported her through thick and thin.
‘But, hang on a minute,’ said members of the lumpen proletariat. ‘Back in 2015 and, indeed until last week, there was never a mention of a Cork-Providence connection. Where did that location come from? It’s more than three hours driving time to New York, 290km.’ (Providence airport is 112km from Boston).
Very quickly Ms Clune was reminded that she was supposed to have been pushing for four to five flights per week from Cork to Boston and from Cork to New York. That was the plan!
So, what went wrong – especially after her high-powered lobbying included a personal appeal to then President Barack Obama from Clune’s boss, the Great Inda himself?
And then the penny dropped. Despite the Cork sweat, the Cork blood and the Cork tears, it looked like the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) had used Ms Clune’s efforts to secure for itself a very sweet arrangement for Dublin. Norwegian more or less abandoned Cork and instead did a deal with the DAA through which Dublin Airport was to get a windfall of 12 new services, including daily flights to New York and five times a week flights to Providence.
What’s more, Shannon was to get four flights to America – one more than Cork – plus two destinations as distinct from one for Cork. And, Belfast – Belfast, mind you! – was to get five flights to America!
Cork, and especially Ms Clune, had been outflanked, although a mouldy, vague promise was made to the Munster MEP that, at some indefinite time in the future, Norwegian might provide a Cork-New York service.
And that was it! The facts of the matter were simple: Once Cork had done the spadework, Dublin Airport suddenly appeared from the shadows and, in tandem with the Norwegian airline, revealed its secretly-crafted agreement.
In other words, Cork’s energetic campaign for transatlantic services, and the aspirations of a Leeside group that lobbied at the highest level of American politics, had been cynically exploited by the DAA, by Norwegian Air International and by persons unknown.
As far as the DAA was concerned, it seemed the purpose of it all was to fill Dublin Airport coffers.
What Deirdre knew?
Which raises this important question: did MEP Clune know what was going on, and was she a party to the DAA stratagem?
Former government minister Alan Kelly described the events in a somewhat delicate fashion. He wrote that Cork campaigners who lobbied ‘tirelessly and honourably’ for US regulatory change must be privately questioning if they were used as a Trojan horse as part of the DAA’s ‘relentless march to an all-out and wholly-unhealthy monopoly of Irish aviation?’
He made the point that, since 2012, Dublin Airport has gone from having 81% to almost 86% of the ‘national aviation pie.’ Over the same time, Cork dropped from 10% to just over 6.5%, Shannon from 5.9% to 5.5%, and Knock from 2.9% to just over 2%.
He suggested that, in relation to the Norwegian airline and access to America, Dublin let Cork do the running before ‘creeping up on the blind side and sweeping away double what Cork and Shannon would jointly get.
‘In a warning that MEP Clune would do well to heed, he argued that the Dublin Airport monopoly (with the apparent imprimatur of Minister for Transport, Shane Ross) is ‘relentless, utterly unchecked, and at the risk of choking our other airports.’
Ironically, at around the same time that the hammering of Cork Airport was taking place, the Rt Hon Lord Ross declared he was investigating the possibility of establishing a third, privately-operated, terminal at Dublin Airport. He also welcomed the development of a second parallel runway.
All of which raises this intriguing possibility: did the DAA snaffle the Norwegian flights in order to advance its case for a third terminal at Dublin airport?
In the meantime, the questions that MEP Clune must answer are who knew what and when over the past year? And why did she not disclose the shabby facts: namely that, while Cork was doing the running to get Cork to Boston and New York flights, the DAA was pursuing its own agenda to get the airline into Dublin?
She has to clear the air on that one. Pronto!
Why does Taoiseach Indakinny display a strong inclination for the split infinitive? The matter was raised recently by our friend from Dinty’s who was at a loss as to why Kenny should have told a crowded room that he would conclusively address his future after he returned from his Paddy Day skite in Washington.
Now, the split infinitive is a controversial grammatical construction in which a word or phrase comes between the to and the form of the infinitive verb. A well-known example occurs in the Star Trek television series: “to boldly go where no man has gone before.’
Our Classics master, Joe Hendrick, used tell us that the split infinitive was a form of English commonly used by uneducated persons. This information in turn led the conversation to the definition of an educated person, then to the qualities of a gentleman and, inevitably, whether or not Enda Kenny could be considered a proper gentleman. The consensus was that ‘not in a million years could Kenny be considered a proper gentleman.’
Indifferent to the contrived, tacky, inelegant, tawdry and vulgar succession stakes, our commentators decided that a proper gentleman (particularly if he were a leader) needed to possess a timeless look, a carefree yet elegant poise and loads of panache!
Coveney and Varadkar do not have an iota of dash or flair. They’re more like Trump who uses Sellotape to fasten the back of his tie to the front and lets it hang as far as his crotch – an extraordinary length for any man, never mind the President of America.
As for Kenny, well, he has yet to reach Trump’s state of sartorial degradation but, because of his split infinitives and lack of a waistcoat, he isn’t far off!