EAST Clare tourism interests have warmly welcomed progress with the long-awaited project to develop a visitor centre for Inis Cealtra.
Clare County Council announced this week that consultants, McCullough Mulvin Architects, Tandem Partners Ltd and Tobin Consulting Engineers, have signed a contract for the design of the Visitor Experience centre. The council is leading the project, along with a wide range of partners.
Chairperson of East Clare Tourism, Arlene White welcomed a number of aspects of the plans to further the next stage of the project. “It is very encouraging to see the emphasis on sustainability and connections with the local community,” she said. “We want to avoid a situation where there are buses of visitors flocking and just barely touching down in the area. I think lessons have been learned, in that respect, from the situation at The Cliffs of Moher.”
Ms White added that the challenge would be to ensure real benefits to the wider East Clare region. “We do need to work on how we will maximise the value that the Holy Island Visitor Experience will offer,” she said. “We’re doing a lot of work around tourism networks because this is going to be an incredible attraction into the area when it is open.”
Chief Executive of Clare County Council Dowling described the facility as “a model for sustainable tourism”. “It is wonderful to see the calibre of consultants that have been appointed and the breadth of creativity and cutting-edge design and interpretation that the consultants will bring to this project,” he said.
Chairperson of Killaloe Municipal District Councillor Pat Hayes described the development as “an exciting milestone”. “The project has been brought to this stage by working in collaboration with staff in the Killaloe MD, all partners and the local community council,” he noted. “I look forward to seeing this project come to fruition for the benefit of the people of Mountshannon, East Clare and beyond. The Department of Rural Development is to be complimented on making this project possible through its generous investment and funding under the Rural Regeneration Development Fund, with co-funding from Clare County Council. It is great to see the profile of East Clare being lifted with this proposed iconic tourism attraction.”
Mayor of Clare, Councillor Mary Howard, said: “This project will be a significant component in implementing the newly adopted Tourism Strategy for County Clare. I wish the consultants well in progressing this to planning stage.”
The Visitor Experience project is being led by the Tourism Department of the council, under the Rural Development Directorate.
Director Leonard Cleary said,“This project is one of collaboration with partners, including the Office of Public Works (OPW), National Monuments Service, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Waterways Ireland and Fáilte Ireland. There has been close engagement with Mountshannon Community Council and it is important that this project enhances and complements the village of Mountshannon and its surrounding area.”
Mr Cleary added that the project will seek to conserve Inis Cealtra as well as provide a high-quality visitor attraction in Mountshannon.
The long-term aims of the project also include expanding the attractiveness of the area as a sustainable tourism destination and, in so doing, address population decline and rural deprivation.
The council said that the contract involves the commissioning and delivery of preparatory works such as a Visitor Experience and Interpretation Plan, technical surveys/plans and sketch and detailed designs; and that it will enable the project to move to a stage where planning consents are secured.
Inis Cealtra is one of six early medieval monastic sites judged by UNESCO to be the “epitome of the early medieval monastic cities” which derived their settlement patterns from the major sites of pre-Christian Celtic Ireland. The settlement on Holy Island was also described by the global heritage organisation as being “amongst the principal examples of centres of Celtic learning, teaching and enlightenment”.
Pictured at the signing of contract documents for the Inis Cealtra (Holy Island) Visitor Experience in the Council Chamber, Áras Contae an Chláir, Ennis, County Clare, on 21st September, 2020, were: (present in the Council Chamber) Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council; Mayor of Clare, Cllr Mary Howard; Brian Carroll, Operations Director, Tobin Consulting Engineers; Anne Haugh, Director of Social Development and Area Manager, Killaloe Municipal District; Leonard Cleary, Director of Services, Rural Development Directorate and West Clare Municipal District; Deirdre O’Shea, Head of Tourism (Acting), Tourism Department, Clare County Council; Cllr Pat Hayes, Chair of Killaloe Municipal District; Joan Tarmey, Tourism Officer (Acting), Tourism Department, Clare County Council; Ruth Hurley, Senior Executive Architect, Rural Development Directorate, Clare County Council; Thomas MacKey, Project Manager, Tobin Consulting Engineers; (joining via video call) Sandra Killeen, Sheila Dooley, Andrew Todd and Michelle Blair, Visitor Experience Consultants, Tandem Partners Limited; and Valerie Mulvin and Niall McCullough, McCullough Mulvin Architects. Photo: Eamon Ward.