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UP TO €15m is being sought from the Government by Clare County Council if it is to take charge of the Shannon Heritage tourism sites in the county.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Knappogue Castle, Crauggownen and a retail outlet at the Cliffs of Moher had all been operated by Shannon Heritage, they could fall under the auspices if negotiations between the Council and the Government are successful.

The Old Ground Hotel hosted a behind closed doors briefing between elected representatives and senior Council officials on Monday. Here it was outlined that the local authority is seeking €5m for the first year of running the sites with an approximate €3m per year needed subsequently for three years.

Costs include an estimated €1.5m repair of the roof at Bunratty Castle, provisions for the 150 Shannon Heritage staff that would be added to the Council’s payroll, repairs to the roofs of the cottages, disintegration of footpaths and attempts to modernise the tourism sites. The capital supports would allow for the essential repairs and further projects to enable a full revamp.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the Rural Development Strategic Policy Committee (SPC), Leonard Cleary updated members. He advised them that the Cabinet has asked Clare County Council to work with Shannon Group and Shannon Heritage on the possible transfer of the three tourism sites and the retail outlet.

“We had to carry out due diligence, we had to look under the bonnet and do an NCT on each of the castles, we know now the investment required,” Cleary stated. He said what happens next is a decision for Government regarding “iconic” tourism sites in the country. “Clare County Council is up for it, Clare County Council are willing to go on the dancefloor and dance if we’re let. It’s about saving jobs and protecting tourism and heritage in the county”. The Director of Rural Development expected that by the next meeting of the SPC meeting in the summer they would be in “transition phase”.

A briefing with elected members had been sought by Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF), Cllr Shane Talty (FF), Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG), Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG), Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF), Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF), Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) and Cllr Joe Killeen (FF). Murphy stated, “it is critically important that we have an understanding of the process, it is important to have proper dialogue to lead to a more positive outcome”. Cllr Shane Talty (FF) described it as “an enormous project” for the Council “with huge potential risks and rewards”.

Impact on employees and a funding package for structural repairs are key aspects of the discussions, Cllr Gerry Flynn noted. “We have a history in Clare of dealing with tourism attractions so it wouldn’t be extraordinary for us to include them. Let’s not repeat the mistake of letting Shannon International Airport out onto its own”.

“It is not a takeover, this is a transfer of the legal entity of Shannon Heritage to Clare County Council in accordance with a Government request,” Council Chief Executive, Pat Dowling told a recent Council meeting.

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