*Cllr Gerry Flynn responds to Cathal Crowe TD. Photograph: Natasha Barton

A SHANNON representative has called on senior management in Clare County Council “to stand up and be counted” to finalise the transfer of four Shannon Heritage sites to the local authority.

Future ownership of Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Knappogue Castle, Craggaunowen and a retail outlet at the Cliffs of Moher remains the subject of inter-departmental discussions with Clare County Council awaiting State funding to take the sites from Shannon Airport Group.

An attempted proposal by Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) for the Council to consider taking out a loan to get the transfer across the line was shot down by Fianna Fáil councillors last month. Addressing a protest by Shannon Heritage workers, Cllr Flynn said, “I tried to work up a debate but not one councillor stood with me”.

He accused the Council of prioritising other ventures, “they have lots of money for pet projects”. “The Council have spent money backing Vandeleur Walled Gardens, Holy Island, Ennis 2040 and the Cliffs of Moher but they don’t want to spend money in this Municipal District, they collect €40m in this area from rates alone”.

Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) questioned Cllr Flynn if he was referring to his proposal to raise a loan. “I am calling on Pat Dowling to stand up and be counted, stop dilly dallying,” the Shannon representative responded.

Deputy Crowe said Flynn’s attempts “undermines the process” of negotiations. “To come in with suggestions of raising loans when negotiations are a delicate stage scuppers what we’re trying to do”. Nearly €30m of a loan was raised for the Cliffs of Moher, Flynn responded, “there are lives at stake here”. Crowe answered back, “a loan competes with getting State funding, it lets the Government off the hook”. Flynn reminded the former councillor, “ye have thirteen Fianna Fáil councillors on Clare County Council, that’s the majority, talk to them”. This was labelled as “spin” by the Clare TD.

Lily Murphy, an employee at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park urged the politicians to give workers an answer. “We’re arguing with our own colleagues trying to save jobs, I can walk away from this job soon because I don’t have a mortgage or young children but we’re waiting three years and we don’t know if we’ll still have a job. Stop the ping pong, give us an answer one way or another”.

Another employee described the ongoing situation as “bureaucracy gone absolutely mad” as he questioned “how much is being wasted on civil servants the people working in the background to come up with nothing”.

Deputy Crowe said Council Chief Executive, Pat Dowling is “taking a stand on behalf of the people of Clare, he wants to take it over funded”.

“We’re all funded, we could work under Clare County Council unfunded and see if a door or shutter has to be done,” Murphy responded. “If it was in Cork it would be done straight away by Micheál Martin. Go up the road to Shannon or Newmarket-on-Fergus, we all rely on Bunratty. The castle will float down the river unless nothing is done. They are making no decision and we’re sick of it”.

Cllr Flynn pledged to continue to raise the matter within the Council. He explained that the Rural Directorate would be responsible for the sites. He said he would invite Shannon Airport Group CEO, Mary Considine to the November meeting of the Council to give further information. He was critical of the secrecy and lack of communication regarding the proposed transfer, “Why was it kept behind closed doors, Chief Executives like that. I don’t like his fancy breakfasts, I can’t be bought, I’m here for the people. He’s a wily fox, he knows what he is doing”.

Certainty is needed for workers, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) stated. “The Minister said funding would be in place but still nothing happened. I don’t expect the Council to take on Shannon Heritage sites until it’s properly funded, why should the people of Clare pay the rates unless it’s properly funded”.

In a statement to The Clare Echo, Dowling outlined, “We are still in ongoing discussions with Government concerning the transfer of Shannon Heritage to Clare County Council. Once we are in a position to report on progress we will be happy to notify all media. In the interim we are not available for comment.”

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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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