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Decision expected on Shannon Heritage sites transfer

AN assurance has been given that jobs at Shannon Heritage sites in Clare are secure, as the transfer to the local authority is expected to be approved shortly by government. 

Leonard Cleary, Director of Services for Tourism, said the authority expects sign-off very soon for the transfer of the sites to Clare County Council. “We would like it to happen, with government approval, before summer,” Mr Cleary told a meeting of the Council’s Rural Development committee. 

Efforts to transfer the sites from the Shannon Airport Group met an impasse at the end of last year, when the government offered a fraction of the €15 million funding package sought by Clare County Council. Since then, a range of options has been explored and meetings have continued into this week in an effort to resolve the issue and protect amenities and jobs at sites including Bunratty Castle, Craggaunowen and Knappogue Castle.

Addressing a rural committee meeting in Ennis on Tuesday (February 21), Mr Cleary said he had just come from negotiations on the Shannon Heritage issue. “We are almost at the final stage of discussions and are confident we are at the stage where the government is ready to make a decision,” he said. “We had a 600-page due diligence report and went through the fine detail. We are satisfied, and have always said that we need a commitment from government that the sites cannot be a burden on Clare County Council. I am conscious that the issue has gotten a lot of coverage and we have a very close working relationship with government. A decision is expected in the very near future. The delay was around everyone agreeing on a business plan. All the details are now fine tuned and we expect a decision very soon. It was important not to rush this and I can assure staff that the jobs at Shannon Heritage are secure. It was important to have time for this. The Shannon Airport Group have engaged and now it’s a matter for a Cabinet decision and we expect that shortly.”

Mr Cleary said that, as discussions continued, there had been a recovery in the tourism sector. “Shannon Heritage’s business has had an opportunity to recover and we are seeing green shoots post-Covid,” he said. “This is very positive.”

The director also outlined future investment in the sites. “The business plan will include capital investment over a number of years,” he said. “We are quite optimistic and positive based on the last 12 months.”

Mr Cleary said a full briefing would be provided to members of Clare County Council before any decision is finalised. “That will be in the near future, once we have a government proposal for approval,” he said. 

Mr Cleary’s comments were made in response to a question from Councillor Pat Burke, who thanked the director for the update. 

Chairperson of the committee, Councillor Pat Hayes also thanked the director, saying the update provided “great hope and encouragement”. 

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