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Taoiseach non-committal on Clare tourist site subvention

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WHILE Clare County Council CEO Pat Dowling last week said that he couldn’t leave the local authority exposed by taking on the Shannon Heritage sites in Clare (including Bunratty Castle) without due diligence, the Taoiseach has said they should not hang around.

A report presented to county councillors said that the Council couldn’t go ahead until a national funding package was provided to it, and in the Dáil Clare TD Cathal Crowe asked his party leader to help provide such a package.

“Last June, Cabinet signed off on a proposal to transfer Shannon Heritage sites to local authorities.

“Clare County Council is currently undertaking due diligence on the transfer of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Knappogue Castle, Craggaunowen and a retail outlet at the Cliffs of Moher.

“The due diligence is extensive but it has thrown up the matter of the incredible costs involved in taking over these sites. 

“The thatch is falling off the roofs in Bunratty, as I have seen myself. The roof of the iconic castle, which has withstood sieges and countless attacks, is also at risk of falling in.

“Operational subvention will be needed and an application has been made to the Government for €3 million or thereabouts per annum. I ask the Taoiseach to look favourably on it.

“We want to see these sites in Clare taken over but it cannot be done at the expense of the public coffers and potentially sinking the local authority’s finances. Some subvention will be needed.”

However Mr Martin’s reply gave no guarantees and he said he had already told another Clare TD that the Council needs to get on with the transfer.

Replying to Deputy Crowe, he said, “I will examine the matter but I want to give the Deputy an illustration.

“When the county managers came to me many years ago regarding Spike Island – I believe Senator McDowell was the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform at the time – Cork County Council did not hang around and was not worried about the cost implications of taking over the site. It saw the potential in it, took it over and it is now a major visitor attraction.

“I said to Deputy McNamara previously that Clare County Council needs to get on with it and take over the Shannon Heritage facilities.

“We will see what we can do in respect of subvention. We have not been found wanting in terms of capital allocations to local authorities, even in the past two years, on a whole range of projects. I would advise the council to go for it.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.