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One of the principal risks identified in the directors’ report was the ability to fund future capital investment and preservation programmes from operating cash flow, in particular given the historic nature of assets operated by the company, such as Bunratty Castle, which is reckoned to be in need of extensive works.

Revealed: Heavy losses and large loans dominate Shannon Heritage accounts

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RETAINED losses totalling €6.352 million and a loan owed to the Shannon Airport Group of €9.2 million have been outlined in Shannon Heritage’s accounts ahead of any proposed transfer of tourism sites to Clare County Council.

In the Due Diligence report submitted to government, Clare County Council detailed significant neglect of the sites, the urgent need to halt the deterioration of the assets and estimated government investment totalling €15 million is required to achieve to allow these tourism attractions to reach their full potential.

The Shannon Airport Group hasn’t given any indication whether it is in a position or is willing to write off some of the accumulated losses or the loan that is due to the overall group as part of any agreed transfer to the local authority.

Responding to Clare Champion queries, the Shannon Airport Group confirmed it invested approximately €6 million in capital expenditure in Shannon Heritage to upgrade facilities between 2015 and 2019.

“In addition, the group funded a voluntary severance scheme as part of restructuring the cost base. This investment by the group enabled the business to return to profitability in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic. While negotiations are ongoing, it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about the details of the proposed transfer,” said a group spokeswoman.

On September 5, 2014, Shannon Castle Banquets and Heritage Limited now Shannon Heritage DAC) (SH) became a subsidiary company of Shannon Group PLC now Shannon Airport Group (SAG).

At the time Shannon Castle Banquets and Heritage Limited had retained profits of €181,507, with a loan owed to immediate parent company of €125,000.

In 2019, pre Covid-19, Shannon Heritage DAC had retained losses of €1,933,000 with loan owed to immediate parent company of €5,050,000.

SH accounts show the company incurred losses of €225,547 in 2015, €1,199,607 in 2016, €716,353 in 2017, €172,000 in 2018, €3.2 million in 2020 due to Covid-19 and €1.2 million in 2021.

The only year a profit was recorded between 2015 and 2019 was in 2019 when the company posted a €199,000 profit.

The accounts show the loan owed to immediate parent company has increased dramatically from €125,000 in 2014 to €4.65 million in 2018 and to €9.2 million in 2021, when the retained losses totalled €6.352 million.

The 2015 directors’ report outlined the company recorded a profit after tax of €26,328 in 2014. The company confirmed it had developed a five-year business plan, which forecast a return to profitability over that period.

The company incurred a total of €705,848 on capital expenditure for the 2015 financial year. The majority of this investment was at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park as a result of the strategic review, which led to a range of capital projects designed to significantly enhance the visitor offering.

The 2016 directors’ report stated the company invested a total of €2.2 million in capital expenditure for the 2016 financial year.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park underwent a €1 million re-development in 2016 with a new retail store, cafe and some new improvements to existing attractions added to the Park. The development resulted in an extra 30 staff being employed at the site.

The 2017 SH DAC directors’ report reported the voluntary redundancy scheme that resulted in the departure of 37 employees during 2017 cost a total of €1.4 million in 2016 and 2017.

The company invested €0.9 million on capital expenditure in 2017. This was predominantly spent on the introduction of key internal financial reporting and stock management systems, and a CCTV upgrade.

The other significant capital spend as focused on operational improvements at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park including new storage facilities, entrance turnstiles, and essential resurfacing of paths.

Other capital investment included a wide variety of improvements to existing attractions and assets at various sites.

“A masterplan for future development at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park has been drawn up and substantial grant aid sought to fund a major improvement to the visitor experience, which is planned will significantly increase visitor numbers.

“A programme of high priority conservation works at Bunratty Castle is to be agreed with trustees to ensure a high level of presentation of its important collection.”

One of the principal risks identified in the directors’ report was the ability to fund future capital investment and preservation programmes from operating cash flow, in particular given the historic nature of assets operated by the company.

The 2018 directors’ report stated the company invested a total of €1.1 million on capital expenditure in 2018, which was predominantly spent on the refurbishment of the retail store at the Cliffs of Moher and the first instalment of the Bunratty rejuvenation masterplan investment.

The other significant capital spend was focused on operational improvements at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park including a new phone system, CCTV, event props and an ice rink for commercial activity at Christmas.

This report outlined the company plans to continue to address the historic underinvestment in its heritage assets, building on the work undertaken in the last three years.

It predicted on the ground works for the masterplan for Bunratty Castle and Folk Park would “begin in late 2019”.

“A programme of high priority conservation works will continue at Craggaunowen, Ireland’s award-winning Bronze Age Park.”

According to the 2019 directors’ report, the company invested a total of €1 million on capital expenditure in 2019 mainly on the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park rejuvenation masterplan and design, planning, conservation works across the portfolio of national monuments within its care and new visitor experience products.

Badly hit by closures of sites due to Covid-19, the company spent €200,000 on capital expenditure in 2020, mainly on the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park rejuvenation masterplan design and planning.

The 2021 directors’ report detailed King John’s Castle visitor experience was expected to transfer to Limerick City and Council on April 4, 2022.

The company had minimal capital expenditure in 2021, with a spend of just €100,000.

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