Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara has welcomed the news that the proposed transfer of Shannon Heritage’s portfolio of visitor attractions in County Clare from Shannon Group plc to Clare County Council is to be brought to Cabinet for approval this afternoon.
“Last summer I went to Clare County Council to propose that the local authority express its interest in taking over Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Craggaunowen, Knappogue Castle and the retail unit at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience having discussed the matter directly with staff of Shannon Heritage and Shannon Group plc management,” stated Deputy McNamara.
He continued, “I am glad that this proposal is coming to fruition as it will give a new lease of life to these vital heritage tourism assets and to staff who have found themselves in a precarious position over the past 16 months.”
Deputy McNamara added, “I have continuously sought commitments from Minister Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton that a review the future of Shannon Heritage’s position within Shannon Group would be undertaken and consideration would be given to bringing the Clare attractions under the operational control of Clare County Council.
“This is a good move for the visitor attractions as Clare County Council has, unusually among local authorities, a lot of experience in managing world class tourism sites. This move will hopefully serve to seek to balance their control of these assets to drive a greater dispersal of revenue and visitor footfall across all of the county, particularly when combined with their plans for Holy Island (Inis Cealtra),” he concluded.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Tourism and Aviation Cathal Crowe has also welcomed the news.
“I see this as a very positive development, and it provides a much-needed adrenaline shot to the heritage sites in our region. The past 15 months have been dogged by huge uncertainty and many of the 200 or so Shannon Heritage staff in our county have endured huge stress and worry levels as they faced uncertainty about their futures.
“I think Clare County Council is very well positioned to run these sites – the team has a proven track record of managing Cliffs of Moher, which is now a world-class site and Ireland’s second most visited tourism attraction, and they’re also now enhancing the tourism product at the Loop Head Lighthouse and developing a top class facility on Inis Cealtra, Lough Derg.
“There’s a dedicated unit in Clare County Council that supports tourism, and this will now need to be beefed up in order to take on the portfolio of the SH sites. I think going forward, Clare County Council needs to strike a very delicate balance between the commercial and heritage potential of the sites.”
Local Sinn Féin TD Violet-Anne Wynne said: “I have been raising this issue in the Dáil for some time now as I firmly believe the Clare County Council are best set to manage these heritage sites. The tourism sector has been decimated over the course of the last 15 months, but this is a very welcome development for the preservation of and re-opening of sites in the near future.
“We are still waiting for the review of the structures of Shannon Group itself as commissioned by Minister Ryan but it stands to reason that because there still hasn’t been a new CEO appointed – it may take some time. There’s no reason to delay the kickstart that these sites, and in fact the tourism sector as a whole, need and deserve.
“Clare County Council, with the help of two subsidiary companies have successfully managed existing visitor attractions and I don’t doubt that they are well placed to oversee the set of Shannon sites that will require additional supports to get back to pre Covid-19 levels, but if managed correctly stand to give the region even more opportunity to attract tourism to the region. I commend the Clare County Council and Chief Executive Pat Dowling in particular, for stepping up to the mark and entering discussions around a potential transfer.
“It is encouraging news for the county, when there is dire need for a good news story. Having an umbrella coordination and management of multiple attraction sites across the county will allow for enhanced orchestration of the tourism industry in the region; benefit the employees involved in these sites and allow for protection of these valuable heritage sites.