THIS week it emerged that Shannon Group will not be receiving the expected €2.6 million from Government to keep Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and King John’s Castle open.
Instead it appears that it will receive a far smaller sum, something less than €600,000. When it emerged that far less money will now be allocated than was announced during the summer, there was some consternation among workers, but it appears that despite the lower amount of money, jobs will still be maintained.
When approached this week, Shannon Group issued a brief statement about the smaller than expected allocation. “Shannon Group is still awaiting final details of the Government funding being provided but we understand it will cover the incremental operational losses of keeping Bunratty Castle & Folk Park and King John’s Castle open from September 1 to December 31, 2020.”
Clare TD Cathal Crowe said that while a smaller allocation is being provided, the jobs will be maintained. Explaining the lower level of funding, he said, “There has been a lot of confusion. Back in the summer there was a huge campaign to fund the place, keep it open and save the jobs. As part of that Shannon Heritage submitted figures to Government as to what its costings were. Michael McGrath then announced he was approving a sum of €2.6 million. What that fund related to was Bunratty and King John’s Castle and it also related to 52 jobs.”
He said it had emerged that such an amount of money could not be provided. “Shannon Group was talking about underwriting the losses of the company, but in the weeks that followed the €2.6 million announcement, the civil servants got in touch with Shannon Group and asked would they clarify their figures. It became apparent they were costing for losses that the Government can’t cover, they’re a commercial semi state and the Government can’t underwrite their losses. They asked the Shannon Group to resubmit revised figures detailing the cost of keeping the site open and that came in at around €580,000.”
He said that the most important thing is that the sites have got the funding required, allowing employment to be maintained. However, he said he was disappointed that a certain amount of stress had been caused to workers. “I think it caused unnecessary confusion for staff, because from their point of view and a tourism point of view, nothing has changed.” While sufficient funding may be there to keep King John’s Castle and Bunratty open, it could not escape the impact of moving to level three this week. In a message on social media, King John’s Castle said it was closing temporarily.
“In line with the national move to Covid-19 Level Three, the Castle will close until October 28. We are sorry to be closing again, however the health of our staff, visitors and community is our number one priority. We look forward to reopening once restrictions are lifted.”
Similarly, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park said that it will be taking measures also, although in part it will be open.
“In line with updated public health guidelines, Bunratty Castle and all indoor spaces in Bunratty Folk Park will close until October 28. The Folk Park, gardens, fairy trail, playground and animal paddocks will remain open. We thank you for your support and understanding during this time.”