*Lily Murphy Shannon Heritage Worker. Photograph: Natasha Barton
SEVEN MONTHS AFTER a due diligence report was completed by Clare County Council on the Shannon Heritage sites, their future ownership remains in limbo.
An inter-departmental working group was established by the Department of Transport last May focused on the transfer of Shannon Heritage sites. It includes representatives from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Office of Public Works, and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media.
In eight months, the inter-departmental group has only met five times, the most recent meeting occurred on January 23rd, the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan (GP) confirmed.
Minister Ryan in response to parliamentary questions from Clare TDs, Violet-Anne Wynne (IND) and Michael McNamara (IND) stated, “My department is continuing to engage with relevant departments across Government and with the Shannon Airport Group and Clare County Council with the aim of facilitating the transfer as soon as possible.
“I would like to assure the Deputies that Government recognises the importance of these heritage sites to the mid-west region and believes that the transfer of the Shannon Heritage business and heritage sites will safeguard the interests of Shannon Heritage employees and the long-term viability and success of the business. Government will continue to support the Shannon Airport Group to ensure that the transfer can proceed as planned”.
Both Deputy Wynne and Deputy McNamara sought updates on the negotiations and details of the funding offer made to Clare County Council.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy McNamara flagged how the only interested party to take over the sites, Clare County Council were treated. “Clare County Council sought €15m for the takeover to fund it, the Government offered €2.5m which is one sixth of that. Before Christmas, expectations were raised within the workforce who have had to live with this for a number of years but still there is nothing publicly happening”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (FG) said his Clare colleague, Joe Carey TD (FG) has regularly raised the matter with him. “I don’t have an update on it, I had thought some money was allocated last year but maybe that’s not the case but it obviously hasn’t been fully agreed for this year and future years, (we’re) obviously keen that it is”.
Meanwhile, the Minster for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien (FF) said a number of options have been identified to progress the transfer from Shannon Airport Group to Clare County Council.
Minister O’Brien stated, “Subject to submission of a suitable proposal and costings, funding towards National Monuments Service approved conservation works at Bunratty Castle could be considered by the Heritage Division of my Department. My Department will continue to engage with the inter-departmental working group and Clare County Council to support progress in the transfer of the remaining Shannon Heritage sites to Clare County Council in 2023”.
A more focused effort is required, Deputy Carey said in response. “This process has been allowed drag on for too long. A successful transfer is not only in the best interests of the Shannon Heritage workers but also an absolute necessity in terms of the tourism and hospitality sector in the Mid-West region”.