*The Old Rectory building in Mountshannon. 

TARGETS for the operation of a visitor centre for Inis Cealtra are set to be missed while the work on a Maritime Training College in Kilrush is “lagging”.

In November, both projects received a combined €7m through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF).

€3,536,919 was allocated to redevelop a vacant building at the Kilrush Marina as a Maritime Training Centre and research base for the offshore renewable energy sector with €3,906,252 to transform the Old Rectory in Mountshannon into the gateway to one of the most significant ecclesiastical sites in Ireland. Clare County Council are to invest €700,000 and €1m into the respective projects.

October 2021 saw the Council acquire the Old Rectory building in Mountshannon. Tourism Officer with the Council, Joan Tarmey told a meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District last January it was intended to have the visitor centre operational by the second or third quarter of 2023 but the Chief Executive has in recent weeks said the project is “twelve to eighteen months” off completion.

Director of Rural Development with the Council, Leonard Cleary outlined that the local authority has requested the relevant Government Department to progress the Inis Cealtra Visitor Experience project to ‘Approval in Principle’ status. “The reason for this request is due to the advanced readiness of the Inis Cealtra project”.

Cleary said the project will be ready by the end of April to move from Stage 1 (SAQ) to Stage 2 (restricted tender) for repurposing and extending the Old Rectory House as a visitor facility and community hub, optimising the wastewater treatment to accommodate development and enhancing public realm works to improve connectivity in and around Mountshannon.

Liam Conneally, Director of Economic Development said the Kilrush Maritime Training Centre is “progressing well”, is also at ‘Approval in Principle’ status with key project milestones to follow”.

According to the two Directors, “both projects will dovetail together during delivery from ‘Approval in Principle’ status to completion. The RRDF funding for both projects is secure”.

Kilkee based Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) was annoyed with the pace of movement in Kilrush, “To be straight, I’m fairly disappointed with the progress of the Maritime Training College, actions speak louder than words”. He clarified that he did not “begrudge” the progress at Inis Cealtra.

He referenced a reply received by Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) from Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys (FG) which said the “projects were linked and I’m worried the slow progress of could impact the other”. Cllr Murphy continued, “There is a massive demand and big urgency for maritime training but I’m not seeing that reflected in what we see on the ground”.

Given the potential of offshore energy off the coast of Clare, Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) maintained the Kilrush project has been made “more viable”. He added, “the fact they are linked we don’t want to see one project lagging behind the other one”.

Movement for Inis Cealtra was welcomed by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF). “I wouldn’t like us to get tied down on the division between East and West Clare. It is a positive note, I’m glad to see the response and we’re moving ahead. This is a huge project for us in East Clare and is very much supported by us all”.

Addressing the Council, Chief Executive Pat Dowling acknowledged, “there’s an unfortunate link between the two sites that they are at the same place at the same juncture at the same time, that is not the case”.

Dowling detailed that work commenced in acquiring the Old Rectory three years ago which he labelled as “a long and delicate process” and said they were hopeful “to get it over the line in the next twelve to eighteen months”.

Regarding Kilrush he remarked it was “totally different”. “It didn’t commence in the same timeframe, we are in detailed discussion on site acquisition and site development around the building, we are intent on delivering both projects, they are very important and we understand the significance of them”.

Scale and investment of the projects are different, the Chief Executive stated. “The West Clare one is considerably more expensive than the East Clare one”.  He continued, “I’m personally involved in both projects, the right effort and focus is being put into them. Last week had detailed meeting on the projects, it’s how you bring the project to delivery is what’s important in these”. Both projects crucially have been funded by the Government. “They have the backing, the links about them being connected, they are quite different, they are not the same and they have to be approached in tat context. They are both equally important and will be delivered”.

In a detailed report issued this week, the Chief Executive outlined that a Part VIII planning consent was being prepared for the Kilrush centre. The preparation of drawings, planning and environmental reports together with acquiring the appropriate letters of consent to bring the proposal to application stage are all currently underway with consent anticipated to be sought “in the coming weeks”.

“Commercially sensitive” issues relating to the property are being dealt with by the project delivery team.

Efforts are ongoing to identify industry partners to form the advisory board of the Clare Maritime Education Zone (Clare MEZ) DAC. The Council have spoken with ESB with a view to them becoming a project partner.

Dowling confirmed that the Council has commenced negotiations regarding the purchase of “the two property solutions associated with the project” but said the RRDF funding “has provided for the purchase of these property solutions”. There is a “remaining significant funding gap” identified in the business plan and associated financial analysis, he stated.

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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.

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