Iconic T2: symbol of a new beginning?

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The opening of Dublin Airport Terminal 2 was a bittersweet moment for many of the Irishmen and women who attended the inauguration last Friday. As Dublin Airport Authority was about to unveil one of its finest achievements – the 75,000sq m terminal came in on time and on budget, and looks likely to greatly enhance the passenger experience at Ireland’s key gateway – the EU Commission and IMF were arriving in town to discuss a bail-out of Ireland’s beleaguered banking sector and its economy, with the promise of years of austerity ahead for the ‘sick man of Europe’.

Listening to the radio on the journey to Dublin that morning was a depressing experience, with talk of Europe’s ‘failed state’ and of a spiralling debt mountain that will loom large over generations of Irish people to come.

After that though, to arrive into T2 was a pure tonic. The bright, airy feel of the building, the easy way-finding and not least the powerful commercial executions both landside and airside provided a warm antidote to the gloom. Here was a demonstration that Ireland can still do some things pretty damn well – and aviation and related industries such as travel retail certainly qualify.

DAA Chairman David Dilger paid homage to those traditions in his address on opening day, noting the contribution of duty free’s founding father Dr Brendan O’Regan in enabling Ireland to “punch above its weight in international aviation” circles.

Fittingly, Dilger cited Dubai Duty Free Managing Director Colm McLoughlin as another example of the huge influence of the Irish abroad, and noted the success of DAA-owned ARI too, as well as naming British Airways CEO Willie Walsh and Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce as other examples of Irish people that had helped build the national aviation footprint. [Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary belongs in that category too, and surely warranted a mention, though when he arrived complete in undertaker’s outfit with hearse and coffin to proclaim the DAA’s role in the death of Irish tourism, he didn’t exactly encourage favour from this particular audience.]

That’s a strong heritage on which to build anew. Ireland’s fortunes may be at their lowest ebb, but T2 will engender a fresh sense of pride in the possibilities ahead, and can point the way to a brighter future at this darkest of times.

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