FINANCIAL support from the Government will be needed for key heritage sites including King John’s Castle and Bunratty Castle as their ownership is transferred from Shannon Heritage to the Limerick and Clare local authorities.
That’s according to Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) who told Minister of State Hildegard Naughton that the tourism attractions currently being transferred to council ownership from the Shannon Group “will not be able to wash their own faces” in the immediate future .
They will need Government funding to help bring them up to a standard to continue as major drivers of tourism in the Mid West region, he said.
Speaking in the Seanad earlier this week, Senator Dooley said that with the new tourism season almost upon us “staff at the heritage sites need certainty about the future of their jobs and these sites, tour operators need certainty and we need government funding to keep the lights on”.
He pointed to the huge importance of the heritage sites to tourism and jobs in the region, with up to 140 people directly employed, adding that a “commitment from Government for funding is needed” to allow them upgrade and modernise their offering.
Replying, Minister Naughton said that the Office Of Public Works is actively on board to ensure the preservation and future of the structures on the sites.
She said that given the complexities of the transfer, due diligence will have to be completed before final Ministerial approval for the move can be sought.
She added that it was encouraging the the sites enjoyed a 64 per cent increase in visitor numbers last year.
“I want to assure the Senator that we are doing everything we can to ensure the future of these sites and their staff, “she said.
However, in the Dáil this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin was accused of being flippant about the local authority takeover of the Shannon Heritage tourism assets.
Clare Deputy Michael McNamara (Ind) asked the Taoiseach for clarity on whether capital funding for the changeover wold be forthcoming from central government.
In response, the Taoiseach said the local authorities should “get on with it”.
Deputy McNamara remarked: “The future of key tourism sites in the Mid West and those who rely on them for employment, either directly or indirectly, deserve more than the flippant attitude shown by the Taoiseach.”