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Bunratty diaspora centre meeting stalled

CLARE County Council has passed the first selection stage, following a submission made to Fáilte Ireland, for Bunratty to be the location for the proposed National Diaspora Centre.

However, the council is awaiting already postponed information meetings with Fáilte Ireland, which were due to take place at the end of July. It was envisaged in the circulated tender documentation that a meeting would take place between the selected county councils and Fáilte Ireland.

Last March, the Government announced that it was seeking expressions of interest from potential partners to develop and operate a National Diaspora Centre.

A Fáilte Ireland study had concluded that a diaspora centre could be viable and self-financing. The study found that a National Diaspora Centre has the potential to be a major tourism attraction, with particularly strong appeal for the Irish diaspora.

However, the study found that it would also have to be of interest to people living in Ireland, as well as to overseas visitors, who do not have an Irish heritage, in order to be viable.

“The council has been working in partnership with Shannon Heritage and with tourism advisers, Sherwood and Associates, to prepare an ambitious and detailed bid for the proposed centre on a site in Bunratty,” the council said in a statement this week.

“The council views the proposed National Diaspora Centre as an exceptional opportunity for Clare and hopes that the bid process will be progressed as a matter of urgency,” the statement added.

Fáilte Ireland, in a statement, said the project is progressing.

“The timing of these things can move around but it is proceeding. We’ve had the first phase, which was expressions of interest, which we have collated.

“The Department of Transport and Tourism are putting together an expert group for the second phase, which will involve looking at the expressions of interest and teasing those out,” the Fáilte Ireland spokesperson said.

The financial appraisal indicates that a National Diaspora Centre could operate sustainably on a revenue basis but would not be able to meet its own building costs. The feasibility study envisages that the capital cost of a centre could range from around €5 million to €26 million, depending on the approach taken to its establishment, with the final cost depending on location, scale, specification and whether it is a new-build or existing building.

Use of an existing building and sponsorship would reduce the capital funding required appreciably.

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