Shannon Group is set to receive €2.6m to help iconic heritage sites including Bunratty Castle and Folk Park remain open until the end of the year.
Welcoming the funding announcement, Mary Considine, CEO, Shannon Group said: “The announcement by Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State for International Road Transport and Logistics of €2.6 million funding to enable us keep our Shannon Heritage sites open to the end of December is very welcome.
“The ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating for our heritage business which is hugely dependent on international visitors. With visitor numbers to our owned sites down -80% year-to-date on last year, we sought Government funding to support us through this unprecedented crisis.
“Today’s announcement is great news, not only for our employees at Bunratty Castle & Folk Park and King John’s Castle, but for the mid-west tourism industry. We know the importance of these sites to tourism in the region. We would like to thank Minister Naughton, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for this much needed support.”
Shannon Group had intended closing both Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and King John’s Castle in Limerick at the end of August because of a dramatic drop in visitor numbers.
Shannon Group had sought €6.4m from the government to keep both sites open until June next year.
Shannon Group made a submission to the Department of Transport in July about securing the viability of both Heritage sites and is in daily discussions with government in an attempt to secure the funding to keep Bunratty Castle and King John’s Castle open to the public.
It has been confirmed that Shannon Group will receive €2.6m in funding to keep both sites open until the end of 2020, thus averting threatened job losses.
Clare Fianna Fáil TD for Clare Cathal Crowe said: “I’m delighted this afternoon to have received confirmation from my colleague Minister Michael McGrath on this funding.
This fund means that these iconic sites will remain open until the end of the year, meaning staff can now breath a sigh of relief. I will be working with my colleagues to ensure this gets extended even further too,” he added.
Independent TD for Clare Michael McNamara said however: “The allocation of €2.6m in funding to keep Bunratty Castle & Folk Park and King John’s Castle open until the end of 2020 is a case of ‘glass half full’.
The Government needs to urgently outline its strategy to ensure all Shannon Heritage sites open next year and their value to tourism in the Mid West is understood and developed.”
Sinn Féin TD for Clare, Violet-Anne Wynne, said: “This announcement is testament to the hard grafting by the Staff at the sites and by cross-party pressure to keep these keys sites open through the winter months.
However, I still think there are questions that need answering. The Shannon Group CEO made it quite clear that they would need at least €3.9 million to keep the sites open until January 2021, so where will the extra €1.3 million come from?” Ms Wynne added
“The Minister said that this funding is conditional on “key-changes” being made within the semi-state body, these conditions need to be clarified. Also, there is still no mention of the other 3 sites that have remained closed during this debacle.
Finally, I would again like to praise the staff of the Heritage sites for the continued pressure they placed on the Government. Their hard work and commitment to their jobs and the local heritage was impeccable, the Teachta said.