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Second wind for Shannon Shamrock?

THIS week has seen calls for Shannon Group to purchase the long-closed Shannon Shamrock hotel and to develop a historic theme park, boosting Clare tourism.

The hotel has been for sale for some time and it is understood that a bid in the region of €1.5 million has been made on it. Savills, the company working on the sale, are hoping to achieve a price of closer to €1.8m.

At the moment, various rumours are swirling about the potential future of the property.

Speaking to The Clare Champion on Wednesday, Niall O’Callaghan, managing director of Shannon Heritage, would not be drawn on whether purchasing the hotel is being considered.

However, Mr O’Callaghan said that there are plans for major development in the Bunratty area. “We’re working on a masterplan at the moment in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland that we hope will come to fruition in the next 12 to 18 months. It’s part of the Fáilte Ireland Capital Grants Scheme and we’re working closely with them. Our ambition is to double the visitor numbers to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. Our primary focus at the moment is to get Bunratty Castle and Folk Park back into the top 10 attractions in the country, where it belongs.

“It’s an €8m investment between Shannon Group and Fáilte Ireland, that’s our primary focus now, making sure that we deliver a world-leading, world-class tourist attraction here in Clare.”

Bunratty is already very successful, he says, but it can improve. “As it stands, we’re in the top 20 attractions in the country with just under 400,000 visitors a year. Clearly, we’ve been doing something right for a number of years. We’re an ambitious company and in order to bring it to the next stage, we recognised investment was required and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Mr O’Callaghan said that Shannon Heritage attractions in the Mid-West already account for 253,000 bed nights.

At Tuesday’s meeting of Shannon Municipal District, Fianna Fáil’s Pat McMahon introduced a motion asking that the council ask Shannon Group to “seriously consider” the purchase of the Shannon Shamrock.

The motion asked that Shannon Group also be asked to consider the creation of a historic theme park in Bunratty.

Councillor McMahon said that at the moment the hotel is an “eyesore”, despite Bunratty being known nationally and internationally as a visitor destination.

He said that Bunratty would be an ideal site for the development of a theme park. “It is one huge opportunity for the whole area,” he claimed.

In its description of the Shannon Shamrock, Savills state, “The subject site extends to approximately 6.62 acres and is prominently located in the heart of Bunratty village, with the benefit of extensive frontage to both the old Bunratty Road, approximately 165m and the Hill Road, approximately 90m. The former Shannon Shamrock Hotel, while no longer in operation, remains in situ. Planning permission has been obtained for the demolition (which has already been carried out) and refurbishment of part of the existing premises (Phase 1), which would comprise 57 bedrooms and ancillary public areas on completion of Phase 1 renovation.”

Owen Ryan