INTENSIVE talks are to go ahead over the next few days to try to secure a continued opening for Shannon Heritage tourism sites, King John’s Castle and Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.
The site provides more than 300 jobs in peak season and are worth €20 million per annum in spin-offs to the local economy, but while they were able to re-open after lockdown restrictions were lifted, they are due to close again on August 31.
Limerick Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell has welcomed the continued commitment from Government to look at maintaining the opening of Shannon Heritage sites beyond August 31, describing the plan to close them early as “very short sighted.”
“These are a vital component of the tourism offering in the mid west. The Shannon Group have indicated in a submission to Government that the total funding cost of keeping the sites open from August 31 to year end is €3.9 million. However, I believe that we should also be looking at the incremental cost of keeping the sites open beyond August.
“The €3.9 million gross cost is before taking account of the availability of the state Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, and the fixed costs that would still be incurred by the group if the sites were closed which should clearly reduce the direct incremental funding cost requirements,” he said.
“I am advised that discussions are intensifying this week between the Department of Transport and Shannon Group Management on keeping the heritage sites open beyond August. I have made repeated representations to government, Department of Transport and Shannon Group to ensure that action is now taken to protect these jobs and our tourism offering in the region.
“These high-level discussions between the Department and Shannon Group follow on from the commitment made to me by Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to examine funding proposals.
“I have also raised this matter in the Dáil and held regular meetings with Shannon Heritage staff, and I appreciate the worry this uncertainty is causing to them and their families,” Deputy O’Donnell concluded.
A meeting is also due to take place on Monday (August 17) between the union and workers’ representatives, and Shannon Group.
Deputy O’Donnell said the Minister has also agreed to his proposal to undertake a thorough examination for the future viability and sustainability of Shannon Airport, including restructuring, financial supports and any other measures that may be necessary as part of a wider review of Shannon Group including Shannon Heritage.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD for Clare, Violet Anne Wynne has said the minister must speed things up.
Speaking on the recent announcement that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Eamon Ryan has ordered a review into the operations at the Shannon Group, Deputy Wynne said, “The minister confirmed to me in July that he ‘proposed to undertake a thorough examination of the future viability and sustainability of the group’.”
“It took a further three weeks for this review to be announced, this simply is not good enough. We have workers in Shannon Heritage that are just 20 days away from, possibly, being laid-off, and staff in the airport that are unsure of their future,” she said.