Shannon Heritage will be forced to close its iconic sites in the Midwest from January until April, following a very difficult financial year according to Fianna Fáil TD for Clare Cathal Crowe.
After extensive dialogue with the relevant state agencies, the decision has been reached to close the sites to the public including Bunratty Castle and King John’s Castle from the new year until April.
This, it is hoped, will allow time to rebuild and be back in operation for a strong summer season next year.
“I’m just devastated for Shannon Group and its workers,” said Deputy Crowe.
“Shannon Group has been put in a very difficult position due to the rock-bottom income levels for this year and has been extensively engaging with government officials on this but has been advised there is no funding in place.
“The announcement is being made now in order to give the workers notice of the plans but it is a tough pill to swallow so close to Christmas.
“Losses have been significant for Shannon Group this year and it’s important to note that this is not a full closure of the sites – while they will be closed to members of the public, these sites will be maintained, repaired and brought up to the best possible standard for reopening at around Easter time.
“This is, sadly, a necessary step to protect the businesses into the future and ensure that the jobs aren’t permanently lost.
“I am aware of the difficulties that Shannon Group has faced this year and of the fact that they have been told funding isn’t there but I really am reiterating the call to government now to step up and provide the necessary support to keep Shannon Heritage sites operational.
“It’s not just the likes of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park – it’s the countless hotels, B&Bs, cafes and restaurants that rely on these attractions. The ripple effect cannot be understated and while I realise it may look bleak right now, I would hope that support can be found somewhere.”
Commenting on its Shannon Heritage business, a Shannon Group spokesperson said: “Our heritage business, like businesses all over Ireland and internationally, have been devastated as a result of the pandemic.
“The challenge is that the Shannon Heritage operation is hugely dependent on international visitors, and visitor numbers to our sites have been down over 80% this year. Traditionally Shannon Heritage makes the majority of its income over the summer season and the money it generates in that period allows us keep Bunratty Castle & Folk Park and King John’s Castle open throughout winter. The effects of the pandemic have resulted in the business incurring significant losses and with continued Covid uncertainty, government guidelines and lack of international traffic, we will regretfully not be in a position to open King John’s Castle and Bunratty Castle & Folk Park to the public from early January until Easter 2021.
“We will retain a team to plan for the 2021 season and ensure all sites are maintained. Our focus now is on protecting our employees’ jobs in the long-term which requires difficult short-term measures so that we can survive, recover and rebuild. This has been a very difficult time for our employees, we are continuing to communicate with them and their union representatives on this matter,” said the spokesperson.