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Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is just one of the Shannon Heritage sites that require major investment.

Shannon Heritage staff ‘reeling’ after Budget let-down

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SHANNON Heritage workers have been left reeling after confirmation of a multi-million Euro investment package in Budget 2023 to facilitate the transfer of its tourism sites to Clare County Council failed to materialise.

SIPTU members have said they feel completely “let down” by the government who announced funding for tax cuts and various groups in Budget 2023 but failed to confirm the long-awaited investment package on Tuesday or Wednesday.

This comes despite strong indications at a recent rural SPC meeting where councillors were told senior Clare County Council officials had received positive vibes about a major funding announcement on Budget Day.

SIPTU members have condemned the failure of the Government to announce the long awaiting multi-million euro funding required to facilitate the transfer of Shannon Heritage sites to Clare County Council.

In a hard-hitting statement issued to The Clare Champion,  SIPTU Organiser, Rachel Keane, admitted their members are shocked, bitterly disappointed and feel completely left down by the Government.

“They have been waiting patiently for confirmation of this funding in budget 2023. Representatives from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Public Expenditure and Reform and Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media, and the OPW established an interdepartmental working group in June 2022 to consider the funding requirements to enable this transfer to proceed and the announcement of this funding was widely anticipated this week.

“SIPTU members fully support this transfer to Clare County Council and both parties have had meaningful engagement throughout this process. Without this funding, the transfer cannot proceed which leaves our members in a very precarious situation.”

Shop steward, Caroline O’Sullivan said, it’s like déjà vu for people in Shannon Heritage.

“We can’t believe it that we have been cast aside again, we have just come through the most difficult period, but we were very hopeful for a bright future with Clare County Council with their plans to maximise the potential of these strategic heritage sites in our region.”

SIPTU Activist, Chris Rowley, said while members are terribly disappointed, they will continue to fight, “We will be again calling on all our local political representatives to explain why the Government commitment has again turned out to be an empty promise.”

This latest development will come as a surprise to senior officials in Clare County Council who were confident the government would announce a substantial funding allocation to kick-start the transfer in Budget 2023.

Clare County Council has drafted a 600-page report outlining the extensive due diligence it has undertaken to take on four key visitor attractions.

However, this is contingent on the government providing funding to support the upgrading and maintenance of these sites for three years.

Councillors were told at a recent Rural SPC meeting the council has received positive vibes state funding will be provided to facilitate this transfer.

In fact, Rural Development Director, Leonard Cleary, said the council are hopefully of an announcement confirming this funding on Budget Day and would be “very disappointed” if it was let down by the government.

If funding isn’t approved, Mr Cleary stressed this isn’t really an option for Clare or regional development.

Mr Cleary said the transfer is one of the examples of the integration of tourism products in the county as outlined in the Clare Tourism Strategy in order to increase the time visitors spend in the county and to provide a world class experience in all tourism sites.

The key strength of this objective is the benefit of cross selling strong visitor attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher to disperse tourists into different parts of the county with the help of Loop Head Lighthouse, Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush and in the future Holy Island.

Mr Cleary said the objective of the council’s tourism strategy is to present Clare in a way that is distinctive and to guide and stimulate investment for the development of the tourism product, increase visitor stay and overall spend.

He outlined the council wants to encourage visitors coming to the Cliffs of Moher to visit attractions in East Clare.

Working with key stakeholders in the tourism industry, he said the council wants to upgrade its visitor attractions to provide a top class experience for tourists visiting the county.

“For Shannon Heritage, there is a high level requirement to asses the current product offer to develop a future plan that will improve the commercial sustainability of the sites and to drive economic growth in the region.”

A comprehensive briefing on the transfer was provided by the council’s due diligence manager, Donnacha Lynch, who produced a very detailed report analysing the business, operations, strengths, weaknesses, assets and liabilities.

This report was submitted to government departments as part of the due diligence process, which also presents the case why a financial package is needed for this transfer to proceed.

The council has engaged with government ministers in the area of tourism, local government and transport with more discussions planned with the Department of Local Government and the Department of Public Enterprise and Reform.

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara said, “I am very surprised that there was no mention at all of the transfer of Shannon Heritage.

“It has been outstanding for a long time now. The workers deserve clarity, and so do people in the tourism industry all across County Clare. The sector in the county does need a fillip.”

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