THE government has been urged to put a strategic plan in place to support the development of Shannon Airport and tourism attractions this year.
This issue was raised by Deputy Michael McNamara in the Dáil recently when he reminded An Taoiseach Micheál Martin that he highlighted the Shannon Group, Shannon Airport and their pivotal role for the economic well being of the Mid-West following his elevation six months ago.
Deputy McNamara asked what plan is in place to support aviation and tourism across the Mid-West in 2020.
“What is the plan for Shannon Heritage? The two sites that have opened are closing on January 3. It is planned to open the sites again in April, but Shannon Heritage remains in the Shannon Group with a commercial mandate and the sites ill fit a commercial mandate because while they generate money, they generate money more broadly in the economy than they do within the group itself.
The Taoiseach acknowledged this “serious” issue has been raised by other deputies including Deputy Cathal Crowe and expressed his desire to discuss it further with Deputy McNamara and other deputies.
Deputy Martin confirmed Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has plans to support aviation in particular, heritage sites and the evolution of the Shannon Group.
While Deputy McNamara has a lot of admiration for the work completed by the OPW managing heritage sites like Ennis Friary, he wondered is this agency the best equipped to deal with Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which is more akin to a theme park than a real heritage site.
There is a review of the Shannon Group including Shannon Heritage sites by New Era on behalf of the government.
Acknowledging the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the tourism and hospitality sector, Deputy Joe Carey said the Shannon Heritage sites were disproportionately impacted by the virus.
The Fine Gael Deputy said all future ownership options should be considered including the OPW, local authorities or a new stand-alone company supported by the state.
Stressing the importance of re-opening all of these sites, Deputy Carey said he has raised this issue on a number of occasions in the Dáil, with Minister of State, Hildergarde Naughton and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan.
“The Shannon Group has a moral obligation to keep all of the Shannon Heritage sites open for as long as possible. These sites provide employment and are essential to the economic well being of Clare and the Mid-West.
“They support local business and are part of an important tourism package. It is hard to fit in Shannon Heritage within a commercially driven semi-state company.
“There needs to be proper dialogue between the department, the workers and Shannon Group.,” he said.