*Shannon Heritage workers question Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF). Photograph: Natasha Barton

IT WILL BE ‘ALL OR NOTHING’ so far as Government funding is concerned for Clare County Council if they are to take over the Shannon Heritage sites.

No contact has been made with Clare County Council since November over the proposed transfer of Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Knappogue Castle and Craggaunowen to its portfolio along with a retail outlet at the Cliffs of Moher. An inter-departmental group established in May to get the transfer over the line has only met three times.

Following a comprehensive due diligence report by the local authority, the over 600 page document detailed that the Council would need €15m to take over the heritage sites.

This was submitted to the Government in July 2022, a spokesperson for the Council told The Clare Echo this flagged “significant neglect of the sites, the urgent need to halt the deterioration of the assets and the investment required to achieve this. The Local Authority stressed that the proposed transfer must not have a significant impact on services and commercial businesses in Clare and therefore, the full funding proposal outlined in the Due Diligence report would be required for the transfer to proceed”.

“Since the announcement on 9th December of its withdrawal at this time from the process, Clare County Council has not received any communication from Government relating to a funding proposal being finalised nor any indication that a downward revised funding package is being considered by government,” the spokesperson added.

According to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the funding requested by the Council may be revised. “The funding gap identified by Clare County Council is €15m (€5m a year for 3 years), the quantum of which may be adjusted downwards partly due to the better than projected performance of visitor numbers to Bunratty Castle in 2022,” a spokesperson for the Department outlined.

Fresh hope had been issued this week by Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) that a new funding package was on the way. He said he had met with Ministers last week and on Saturday at the election of a new Taoiseach where he was “advised they were gearing towards a funding package for the transfer of sites, this is the first time we’ve positively heard it said that they were going to do it and that detail had to be worked on. There is a little bit of work yet to go on it but this is the first positive indication we’ve had all year long that the Government will provide a solution”.

Deputy Crowe told The Clare Echo he did not know “the exact mechanics” of the deal and whether the Council would get the €15m as requested. The Meelick native has suggested that the different Departments involve “part-fund” the transfer to hit the total figure or for the Government to fund the 2023 expenditure that the Council incur and roll this over for the next three years.

He had been hopeful the final Cabinet meeting before Christmas would see an agreement reached on the transfer. The first-time TD had previously been vocal sharing his belief that a deal would be reached before Christmas. “Not only did I want it done by Christmas I wanted it done before summer, it has dragged on for far too long. The news that the Government will be funding this in some shape or form is significant and it is very positive. It has allayed a lot of the concerns, the workers know a future is ahead for the Folk Park, the detail has to be worked out and that can be done very quickly. I would love it to be done this week but I can’t guarantee that. From a workers point of view, they know the Government will resolve this”.

That no contact has been extended to Clare County Council to iron out further details did not concern the former Mayor of Clare. “There are two levels to this, there’s the political level and the civil service level, a lot of deals are often worked out at a political level and the civil service then put the structure on it. The Ministers are in agreement that there will be a funding package, they will make it happen, the precise detail will be passed to the civil servants, there is nothing unusual in that. I don’t think there’s anything unusual in that, I’d give my right arm to have it resolved and nailed down this week”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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