THE Taoiseach has been asked to appoint a high-level intermediary to ensure that the proposed transfer of Shannon Heritage’s assets in Clare to the ownership of Clare County Council is finalised without further delay.
The call was made by Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara who said that the proposed transfer has taken too long and appears now to be “bogged down in a bureaucratic, Departmental pass-the-potato.”
“It’s disappointing that it has come to this but the matter needs to be concluded to protect taxpayer investment in the assets, the future of the broader tourism sector in the region and, especially, those who work in Shannon Heritage, many for their entire working lives.
“Shannon Airport Group has questions to answer on its treatment of Shannon Heritage assets and staff,” Deputy McNamara declared.
“The Group comes under the remit of the Department of Transport which, I understand, has referred the matter of funding the transfer to the Department of Local Government and Housing which, in turn, has told Clare Council that it will not meet its funding request of €15million.
“That sum, which is a very large ask in these increasingly difficult times of so many competing demands, especially housing, may need to be modified.”
“Fáilte Ireland is the State agency tasked with supporting tourism capital investment projects and initiatives by both the public and private sectors. It comes under the remit of yet another department, the Department of Tourism. All of those departments ultimately look to the Department of Public Expenditure for funding.”
“The future of Shannon Heritage has to be secured soon to allow it to start planning for 2023 and beyond without further delay and distraction,” Deputy McNamara concluded.
Meanwhile, Limerick Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has condemned the government for failing to allocate funding in the budget for the transfer of the Shannon Heritage sites to Clare County Council.
“Key tourist attractions including Bunratty Castle, Knappogue Castle, Craggaunowen and Dunguaire Castle were expected to receive investment funding of €5 million, which would have facilitated a transfer to the local authority,” Senator Gavan explained.
“Representatives from a range of government departments had been meeting in recent months to plan an orderly transfer. However, on budget day there was no allocation of the necessary funds to allow the change of ownership to take place.
“I worked on this issue with SIPTU a couple of years ago. I thought we had fixed the issue. These sites were, effectively, going to be transferred to Clare County Council to secure their long-term future.
“They need between €4 million and €5 million in funding because there has been no investment in key sites such as Bunratty Castle for several years.
“Unbelievably, those workers were forgotten about in last week’s budget. I understand that even the people in Clare County Council were expecting an announcement and, frankly, I am flabbergasted,” Senator Gavan stated.
“The government has completely dropped the ball on this matter, so the workers must now throw the ball back at the government and demand they take action. An allocation of €5 million is a very small amount of money in the context of overall budget spending.
“Workers are facing another uncertain winter, and an uncertain future in respect of their livelihoods. This matter should have been resolved a couple of years ago. SIPTU members have stood defiantly, trying to find a secure future for these important tourist attractions.
“I am calling on the government to act to secure the future for these workers and these important sites which are a crucial part of the tourism offering not just for Clare but for Limerick and the greater Mid West region,” he added.