A CABINET meeting earlier today saw approval granted for a funding package that is set to see Clare County Council take over responsibility for Shannon Heritage attractions in the county.
It is understood that the Council will receive €6 million in funding this year. They will also receive a ‘letter of comfort’ promising further support in 2024 and 2025.
Clare County Council are set to discuss the offer in the coming days and are likely to accept it, which would end a long running saga around the future of the sites.
In a statement this afternoon Clare TD Cathal Crowe welcomed the development. “Today the Cabinet met and approved a funding package which will now go to Clare County Council to be ratified.
“This funding package secures the future of the iconic sites in our region including Bunratty Castle and brings certainty to the workers of these sites who, for far too long, have been left wondering what the future had in store for them.
“The government have committed €6m in funding for this year alone and have also, in writing to Clare County Council, outlined how they propose to support these sites in the coming years.
“Before Covid, sites like Bunratty were capable of attracting upwards of 350,000 visitors per annum and my sincere hope is that we will very soon get back to that level again, but this is contingent on resurgent international tourism.”
He expressed confidence in the Council’s capacity to manage the sites effectively. ““Clare County Council have a proven track record of being capable of effectively running tourism sites such as the Cliffs of Moher.
“I am confident that they will excel in managing the Shannon Heritage sites also.
“I feel sorry for the workers in all this – the takeover process has been very protracted from their point of view, and I’ve stood with them on each of their protest days and have maintained regular contact with them.
“I think they’ll all now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their future as employees is certain and that the sites will be funded across the next few years as they continue to recover.”
Senator Timmy Dooley said he was very pleased with the outcome. “Having worked on this for the last two years I’m really pleased that we brought it to finality. I want to recognise the commitment of all the workers who went through an uncertain time and they have stuck with the process. It’s a good day for them.
“I also want to recognise the tenacity of the Council, both the Councillors and the CEO and staff, who at the outset were offered derisory amounts of money. They stayed firm, and working with myself, we have achieved what I think is a very positive outcome. There’s €6 million up front and a very strong commitment from Government that more funding will be available for the maintenance and restoration of the Heritage buildings.”
Senator Dooley said that the Council will see at least €10 million following today’s commitments, but that ultimately the figure could be much higher.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.