*Photograph: John Mangan
Renewed calls have been made for Shannon Group to purchase the now derelict site that was once the Shannon Shamrock Hotel while Clare County Council have said they are considering applying the derelict sites act to lead to an improvement.
For the third time in 17 months, the potential of the site and its current failings were discussed by councillors of the Shannon Municipal District. The Shannon Shamrock has been closed since 2009, the property has been for sale since 2018.
Last January, Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) appealed to the local authority to encourage Shannon Group to purchase the site and create a theme park there. At their May meeting, McMahon issued a renewed appeal for such an approach to be made, “it is a total eyesore and it is hampering the growth of Bunratty”.
Acknowledging the absence of tourists, Cllr McMahon highlighted that a proactive approach is needed for Bunratty’s future, “the lands that are available their value has deteriorated, there is no better time to buy”. He believed the onus was on Shannon Heritage and Shannon Group who operate the nearby Bunratty Castle & Folk Park to do so.
Director of Service with Clare County Council, Liam Conneally commented, “If something doesn’t happen immediately, we have the derelict sites act that we can apply, we are at that stage now. We will look at the legislation and see what we can do”.
Under the Derelict Sites Act 1990, local authorities are responsible for dealing with derelict sites in their area. They can use certain powers to enforce the clean-up of these sites such as prosecuting owners who do not comply with notices served, make compulsory land purchases and carry out necessary work themselves while charging the owners for the cost.
“Bunratty is a unique village, the banquets at Bunratty Castle have been copied all over the world, you have Durty Nellys, Meadows & Byrne, it is a brand that has gone worldwide,” Cllr McMahon remarked. “It reminds me of a second World War German prisoner camp,” the Newmarket-on-Fergus native said of the site. He acknowledged the work of the Bunratty Development Association and outlined that voluntary groups in the area “feel bitter and let down by the attitude of Shannon Group,” who would be “the major benefactors of tourism in the area”.
Agreement was echoed by Cllr PJ Ryan (IND), “this is a strategic site in the Bunratty area and it has become an eyesore, it is boarded up and it looks terrible in a tourist area”. In seconding the motion, he recalled how Cllr McMahon has suggested the location be turned into a theme park. Work of volunteers is being undermined by the unkept site, the Cratloe man said. “If Shannon Group cannot do it, Clare County Council needs to step in”.
At the back of the former hotel is a housing estate, Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) told the meeting, “it is a tourist area but it is also a residential area”. He believed it would be “an ideal scenario” for Shannon Group to acquire the site. “Whatever will happen, something has to happen, it can’t be let fall down in front of the people living there and the people coming to visit”.
Further support came via Cllr John Crowe (FG). “It is like a can that has been kicked up and down the road for years,” he lamented. “It is such a prime site,” Crowe underlined and described its current condition as “an insult” to local Tidy Towns and voluntary groups, “we can’t leave something like that near one of the biggest tourism attractions”. Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) also encouraged the County Council to take action.
Mr Conneally told councillors, “It is a site we have been standing back on and we were encouraging Shannon Group to engage with the owners”. He then added that they will assess the legislation to see what can be done.