*Bunratty Castle & Folk Park has come under the Council’s ownership with the transfer of Shannon Heritage sites.
SUPPLIERS IN CLARE need to be supported by the local authority by making them the first choice when it comes to services at tourism sites under their operation.
At the September meeting of the Shannon Municipal District, councillors expressed concern that local suppliers could be pushed aside in favour of bigger companies for various services at the Shannon Heritage sites now under the ownership of Clare County Council with procurement processes blamed for causing the worry.
In May, a transfer was officially agreed of Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Craggaunowen Bronze Age Park, Knappogue Castle & Walled Garden, and the Cliffs of Moher Experience retail unit from the Shannon Airport Group to the County Council, following a two year process.
Cathaoirleach of the Shannon MD, Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) was the first to flag that there were concerns brewing on the future of local suppliers’ involvement to the attractions.
A motion on the matter will go before the October meeting of the Council, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) outlined. “There are a considerable number of people providing services to the Cliffs of Moher and the Vandeleur Walled Gardens and they are being disenfranchised”. He warned that a different tendering system “means people will lose jobs”. The Shannon representative said, “it is all down to Clare County Council creating unacceptable bodies, these DACs are the problem, it is taking the power from elected members”. He noted that suppliers in Clare “are balancing the Budget”.
Referencing the cause of local businesses, Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) stated, “now that we have taken over the Shannon Heritage stuff we are now fighting to see if we could from this Municipal District encourage the Council that anything which could be supplied to Bunratty be done locally from the Shannon area as it is within the area of the Shannon Municipal District”.
He continued, “These companies were good enough to supply Shannon Heritage, I don’t think we should let that change, if they were good enough to supply Shannon Heritage then they are still good enough”.
Careful approaches need to be made, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) believed. “Public procurement is a major problem at the moment, the services offered locally should be looked after locally but unfortunately the Department make the rules, they say who should apply and look after it”. He added, “it seems terrible that a company paying their rates can’t compete for business”.
“This didn’t happen today or yesterday, it is going on since the Central Procurement process was introduced, I know of small suppliers who have been taken out because of this, the main difficulty I see with this is that it doesn’t have any threshold,” Cllr Michael Begley (IND) commented.
Cllr John Crowe (FG) remarked, “the big guy is getting everything. Small suppliers have been gobbled up by the big suppliers, the small operators with seven or eight people working for them are gone”.
How the renovation of O’Brien Tower at the Cliffs of Moher has led to the employment of four to five “local lads all year round” was referenced by Cllr Pat McMahon (FF). “We’ve moved into the Premiership in terms of the ownership of sites,” the President of Newmarket Celtic FC commented. “We all want to see local people employed, now local suppliers for some obscure reason are taken out,” he continued.
Acting Director of Service, Siobhán McNulty advised the meeting that the County Council was “bound to follow public procurement rules”. She said “significant work” has been done with small and medium enterprises “to ensure they are not discommoded” in the past and committed, “the same will be done to level the playing field, I will talk to the Director of Tourism to ensure the same level of supports are offered”.