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A THIRD SUMMER SEASON is to be lost for the Shannon Heritage sites due to the slow pace at which Governmental Departments are handling their transfer to Clare County Council.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Knappogue Castle, Crauggownen and a retail outlet at the Cliffs of Moher had all been operated by Shannon Heritage and are expected to come under the Council’s ownership, if a move can be agreed.

In April, The Clare Echo reported that the County Council were seeking up to €15m from the Government to take over the tourism sites. The local authority is seeking €5m for the first year of running the sites with an approximate €3m per year needed subsequently for three years.

Costs include an estimated €1.5m repair of the roof at Bunratty Castle, provisions for the 150 Shannon Heritage staff that would be added to the Council’s payroll, repairs to the roofs of the cottages, disintegration of footpaths and attempts to modernise the tourism sites. The capital supports would allow for the essential repairs and further projects to enable a full revamp.

Speaking in the Dáil in February, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF) said Clare County Council “should get on with it” if they were interested in taking over the sites.

While Limerick City and County Council have ‘got on with it’ by securing the transfer of King John’s Castle in April. The Clare Echo understands that local authority officials in Clare are said to be seething with the delays experienced at Government level which has stopped them from ‘getting on with it’.

Chief Executive of Clare County Council, Pat Dowling said on Monday “nothing has changed” regarding the status of the sites. “We are still working hard to secure funding and a decision from the Government”. He was among a Council delegation meeting with officials from three different Departments on Wednesday.

Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND) raised the matter in the Dáil on Tuesday and noted he brought the matter to the Taoiseach’s attention on the day of his election in the Convention Centre. “I have raised it several times since. The last time, the Taoiseach said Clare County Council just needs to get on with it. I understand the Council very much wants to get on with it but the proposal is being bounced around Government Buildings. At the moment, it is between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Transport and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Can the Taoiseach, as Head of Government, tell me when a decision will be made? If he cannot tell me today, will he tell me in writing before the Dáil rises,” McNamara asked.

Though he committed to following up the matter, the Taoiseach didn’t seem up to speed on the multi-million transfer and sought clarity on the Departments it was “bouncing around between”.

Deputy McNamara told the Dáil that the Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath (FF) who would have to sign off on any major funding arrangement did not have the item on his desk. “He tends to be decisive, which could mean it is bouncing back somewhere again. The Government made a decision to take Shannon Heritage out of Shannon Group. It was to go to local authorities,” the Taoiseach responded.

“We are in the third tourism season since so there needs to be movement,” the Scariff native remarked.

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