A REDUCTION in opening hours at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park sparked a day of protest at the top tourist attraction which is operated by the Shannon Airport Group.
The protest by members of the SIPTU trade union last Thursday was also in response to the lack of progress on a promised multi-million euro investment package to facilitate the transfer of Shannon Heritage tourism sites to Clare County Council.
In recent weeks, Clare County Council confirmed that no funds had been made available by the Government to facilitate the transfer.
The Shannon Airport Group has since announced that the Bunratty attractions will cease to operate seven days a week and the public will only be able to access the sites four days a week from January 12 until March 1.
SIPTU Organiser, Rachel Keane said the trade union had alerted local representatives that plans to close the Shannon Heritage sites due to Covid-19 would be used a smokescreen to restrict visitor access for three months of the year.
“No rationale has been given for this latest decision, as the sites have outperformed Shannon Groups’ projections in terms of visitor numbers for 2022.
“If the sites had transferred to Clare County Council, as promised, we are confident they would be open 7 days a week as other sites, including King John’s Castle, Malahide Castle and Newbridge House, which successfully transferred from Shannon Heritage, are fully open and trading.
” The continued failure of the Government departments to announce the long awaiting multimillion-euro funding required to facilitate the transfer needs to be investigated fully.”
SIPTU shop steward Dolores Broderick said the Bunratty workers who were loyal and dedicated to their employer were now facing a precarious and uncertain future.”
In a statement issued on Friday, a spokesman for Clare County Council said it cannot proceed with the proposed takeover of the Clare assets of Shannon Heritage without real and meaningful support from Government.
However, Council chief executive Pat Dowling added that they are open to further engagement on the future management and development of Shannon Heritage assets in Clare.
The council is citing ongoing uncertainty around the proposed terms of the legal guarantees and funding in relation to the transfer of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Craggaunowen Bronze Age Park, Knappogue Castle and the Cliffs of Moher Experience.
“In the comprehensive independent Due Diligence report submitted to government, Clare County Council detailed significant neglect of the sites, the urgent need to halt the deterioration of the assets and the investment required to achieve this.
“Clare County Council has engaged constructively with all parties to the process approaching two years. Despite every effort made and the good faith demonstrated by the Council throughout the process, it is unable to proceed with the proposed takeover at this time”.