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The Old Rectory Builidng in Mountshannon which will be redeveloped into a visitor centre building for Inis Cealtra

Inis Cealtra centre a ‘catalyst’ for East Clare tourism

THE business community of East Clare has been urged to seize the opportunities offered by the development of the Inis Cealtra Visitor Experience centre in Mountshannon. 

At a briefing last Wednesday for members of the Killaloe Municipal District, Tourism Officer Joan Tarmey described the centre as “a catalyst project” which will drive regeneration of the village, its hinterland and the wider East Clare area. 

“This is a really ambitious tourism, conservation and village renewal project,” she said, referring to the €3.9m that will be invested on foot of a successful application to the Department of Rural and Community Development. “It will create and sustain rural employment.”

Ms Tarmey noted the lack of a hotel in the village, as well as the properties currently vacant. 

“Mountshannon once had hotel, but that has been closed for around ten years,” she said. “The vacant properties now represent real opportunities for businesses to renovate. There will be confidence that footfall will increase steadily. I am confident the business community will seize those opportunities.”

That sentiment was supported by Councillor Pat Burke who complimented everyone involved in the long-running efforts to get the project to this stage. “Credit must also paid to Ger Dollard and Gordon Daly,” he said.

“The local hotel for sale. Surely there’s somebody out there with a vision who will will see the potential. There are lots of vacant properties with great potential. When the Council bought island, I went to see Clonmacnoise. That has around 160,000 visitors per year. Mountshannon has the novelty of the island. That’s a major advantage. Mountshannon has it all.”

Councillor Pat Hayes said there had been a perception that everyone goes to the Cliffs and nobody to East Clare.

“That’s changing now,” he said. “It’s our time to shine. The bypass and new bridge in Killaloe will give great impetus also to this really welcome development. I was first approached when I was Mayor of County about the Council buying island. Ger Dollard and Gordon Daly were not found wanting when they heard something could be in the offing.

“It took a huge combined effort from every side to get this over the line. There is a need now for rebalancing. There is a different way of life and a different tourism product here. This project will create jobs and bring regeneration to East Clare.”

Councillor Joe Cooney said everyone is aware of the work done over the last number of years in developing Inis Cealtra.

“This is dating back ten to 15 years to get 40 acres on Inis Cealtra into public ownership,” he said. “Thanks to landowner for their work with Council. Getting this far has not been easy. It took a lot of time, commitment and bravery to bring it to this stage. The funding is simply fantastic. This will be the jewel in the crown for East Clare. Without some landmark like Holy Island, we wouldn’t be able to build around it. We need to drive on from here. Well done to everyone involved past and present.”

Councillor Tony O’Brien congratulated the Tourism Section of the Council. “I can see how hard you’ve been working in recent times,” he said.

“Slow tourism is absolutely necessary. We need to hold people in the place. What makes this project extra special is the community collaboration. It shows what can be achieved when we work together. The bypass and bridge crossing sends the message that Clare is open for business. This is go-ahead county that is progressive.”

Cathaoirleach Councillor Alan O’Callaghan said he had not been long on the County Council when Holy Island was bought. “Hopefully we’ll all be back in 2024 to see it opened,” he quipped. “This is very welcome news and a credit to everyone. To get one funding allocation for county is massive. To get two for the county is phenomenal.”

Ms Tarmey described the €3.9m funding boost as “really significant”.  She noted that match funding of €976,000 will come from the Council. She also outlined that the projected opening date for the centre is the firs quarter of 2024. 

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