Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara is pledging his full support for the proposed development a world class visitor attraction at Ardnacrusha, Co. Clare.
Deputy McNamara received a briefing on the project today during which it was confirmed that the ESB is currently undertaking a feasibility study to establish the business case for a visitor experience at the site of Ireland’s first electricity generating station.
“The Shannon hydroelectric Scheme, which led to the establishment of the ESB in 1927, was a major development by the Irish Free State to harness the power of the River Shannon at a time when the country had the second lowest consumption of electricity in Europe,” stated Deputy McNamara. “The development of an iconic visitor project here would capitalise on the growth in popularity of heritage-based tourism and ultimately, provide a significant boost to the tourism sector in southeast Clare.”
“I welcome the ESB’s move to engage with public representatives ahead of preparing this feasibility study which, it is hoped, will provide sound justification for the application to a national funding scheme such as the RRDF,” he stated. “As part of this work, the ESB is now commencing on a period of participatory stakeholder engagement to attain key input and feedback on the project plan. It is anticipated that this process of engagement will lead to a regional project with local and community beneficial impact.”
Deputy McNamara expressed confidence that there would be significant public interest in the development of a visitor experience at Ardnacrusha. He noted there was scope to develop a heritage tourism project on a par with the ‘Titanic Experience’ in Belfast, which has delivered “significant, positive benefits for the city and Northern Ireland in general.”
“During my first term as a TD, I successfully appealed to the then Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte to encourage ESB to reinstate school tours at Ardnacrusha and I am delighted to see it has proven to be extremely popular. Clare County Councillor PJ Ryan has also been pushing for the development of a visitor project there over a long number of years,” said Deputy McNamara.
“ESB currently runs a visitor experience in the current power station from approximately May to September each year, with visitor numbers of just over 10,000 per year,” he explained. “Access to Ardnacrusha is limited however, as the ESB admits only (non-commercial) groups, which are booked in advance while tours can be provided only at set times on Mondays through Fridays. Demand is high for the tours, but there is no scope to expand the daily capacity limits in the current facilities.”
Deputy McNamara continued, “To meet this challenge and to tap into the tourism potential for the region, the ESB has informed me it is planning a proposed new experience to harness the cultural heritage tourism potential of the region. Comprising of five floor floors, each created to inspire and educate through social, engineering, architecture and STEAM related stories and interactive exhibits, a 360-degree virtual amphitheatre, a café which will offer sustainable locally sourced food, a retail unit hosting local artisan crafts and products, and family oriented outdoor spaces the Ardnacrusha Experience will deliver a unique project on a par with the best-world-class interactive visitor experiences.”
“I want to wish ESB the very best in its engagement with Clare County Council, public representatives, Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland and other stakeholders as it advances this project. I would be surprised if there isn’t full support for what is being proposed, considering its potential worth to the local economy, and the protection and promotion of a key heritage asset in this county and country,” concluded Deputy McNamara.