€11million needed to cover possible losses at Shannon Heritage sites

Bunratty Castle in County Clare.

CLARE County Council is seeking €11 million to cover possible losses associated with its proposed take-over of Shannon Heritage sites, including Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, from the Shannon Group.

Negotiations between the Government and the local authority to transfer the ownership of the Bunratty visitor attractions, along with Knappogue Castle and Craggaunowen are at an advanced stage.

However council chief executive Pat Dowling emphasised that State support will be needed for them to operate the sites until they return to profitability.

It’s understood that the council is seeking €5 million for the first year and €6 million for the next two years for the transfer to go ahead.

In an interview with Clare FM, Mr Dowling said that while he empathises with the frustrations of the 150 Shannon Heritage workers affected by the proposed transfer, his priority as chief executive is to ensure that he protects the welfare of the council at large.

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“A lot of work has been done in the past 12 months or more. We have carried out a very comprehensive and extensive due diligence across a range of areas. We are currently in discussions with the senior civil servants in a number of Government departments concerning the transfer. It’s quite an onerous task,” Mr Dowling explained.

“There are in the region of 150 staff that we have to accommodate as part of that transfer. My priority as chief executive of the council is to ensure that I at all times protect the welfare of the council at large. We must continue to provide housing, deal with roads, deal with environment, deal with business supports. They continue to be the work that we continue to do.

“Tourism is also important to us but it has to be placed in that context. We have asked Dublin for support and those discussions are ongoing and I hope to bring them to a conclusion as soon as possible. It is fundamentally financial support both at a current and a capital level.

“We have to ensure that the capital wellbeing of the facilities at Bunratty, Knappogue and Craggaunowen are such that they are sustainable into the future. That’s a longer term objective for us. My immediate ask is on the current expenditure side until we can return to profitability at the sites.

“I’m very concerned to protect the welfare of the staff involved in Shannon Heritage. I have met them on two occasions. I want to complement them and show empathy with the frustrations they are probably feeling but I do need Government support to achieve that outcome,” Mr Dowling concluded.