DON’T know whether it was the trench coat or the clapped out jalopy that wheeled me in. Maybe it was neither and instead it was the constant plumes of cigar smoke that seemed to cover the screen.
Then again maybe it was that turn of phrase, way with words and stock punchlines that somehow and for some people transformed a dishevelled man into something super-cool and something of a ‘70s icon.
You’ve figured out that he was Columbo – he of the bungling personality, but at the same time he of the minute detail in the way he pieced together the scenes of crimes and always came up trumps.
‘Somethin’ is botherin’ me,’ he would always say in a throw-way fashion – week in week out it never failed to set in train the process in uncovering the truth behind the lie.
Left Field would never presume to have as much influence as Mr Columbo did in his detective work, but it’s not about to stop this contributor stealing his most famous line in an effort to get at some truths – hopefully not lies. Yes, all because, ‘somethin’ is botherin’ me’.
It’s that old Clare chestnut – the story that will never go away, just because the county depends on it so much. You know the one – Shannon Airport, the jewel in Clare’s crown for so long, the former hub of the aviation world that was set free on December 31 last.
Set free to chart its new independent stand alone future – sink in the mudflats of the nearby estuary that claimed a constellation or two in its time, or else swim and then take flight to a new future when the airport can once more assume its traditional policy or being an engine for growth for county and mid-west region. It jarred a little, no it jarred a lot, that this independence announcement took place in Dublin on the first Monday in December.
It jarred because it just didn’t make sense and smacked of arrogance on the part of the Government that they wouldn’t deign to come down to the mid-west region to announce details of its new blueprint for the airport and Shannon Development.
For the Government that’s continually banging on about austerity and saving cash, it didn’t even make economic sense to drag so many people up to Dublin, when the traffic in the other direction – made up of a couple of ministers and civil servants – would have been much the less expensive option. They could have even car-pooled, or hopped into the same rent-a-bus that ceremoniously brought all the then soon-to-be ministers to the old vice-regal lodge in the Phoenix Park to get their seals of office from President McAleese.
But, worry not, we’ll park that complaint and remember how the mid-west travelled to Dublin in good faith and listened to the breaking news about Shannon Airport.
Nearly three months to the day, it is worth recalling what that breaking news was – indeed it is worth regurgitating it in full. And, it wasn’t about the independence announcement because in true fashion that had been well leaked and flagged beforehand. It was the jobs. The jobs that were coming to Shannon. The jobs that were going to refloat the economy in Shannon, greater Clare and greater mid-west region. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Loads of jobs.
The Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton issued a joint-statement about independence and jobs.
“Specific commitments for the creation of 850 jobs has been secured from two Shannon-based companies, as part of plans for an International Aviation Services Centre. These commitments depend on the separation of Shannon Airport from the DAA,” the ministers said in their joint-statement.
“A report from the Aviation Business Development Task Force, set up by the Shannon Steering Group, also states that the Aviation Services Centre ‘is conservatively projected to create and maintain 3,000-3,500 new direct jobs within five years, not including construction jobs’.
“The Government decision will grant Shannon Airport the long-awaited freedom to determine its own future in the best interests of the airport itself and of the Shannon region, and merge it with a restructured Shannon Development. The new entity will include Shannon Development’s extensive landbank and will be tasked with developing an international aviation centre of excellence,” the statement added.
Of course the jobs announcement was the headline grabber, but in the intervening three months there’s been no announcement of jobs – short-term, long-term or any term.
Indeed, Columbo would have smelt a few rats on the day of the press conference in Dublin. You see, the figure of 3,000 to 3,500 new jobs was mentioned in the press release, but during the subsequent press conference that jumped to 5,000 new jobs. That’s 1,500 new jobs within the space of a few minutes. Hopefully it’s not too much and too good to be true. However, until such time as the first new job is delivered, somethin’ should be botherin’ everyone in Shannon about this whole independence thing.
For instance, when are those 850 jobs that were promised in the short-term going to come on stream – it’s a question that ministers Varadkar and Bruton should be answering.
If they won’t, it’s a question that should then be put to the Clare Oireachtas members – there are five of them so we’re spoiled for choice – who are part of the Government benches.
Hopefully they have the answers.

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Joe Ó Muircheartaigh graduated from University College Dublin in 1989 with a degree in history and politics. After completing a Diploma in Journalism at The College of Commerce, Rathmines in 1991, he embarked on a career in journalism. Joe spent four years with Clare FM from 1992 and was with The Clare Champion from 1996 to 2005. He has won two McNamee Awards for GAA journalism and has published two books. Contact Joe on [email protected]

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