Iconic visitor attractions transferred To Clare County Council

Clare County Council and The Shannon Airport Group today signed a historic agreement marking the official handover of the Clare assets of Shannon Heritage to the local authority.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Craggaunowen Bronze Age Park, Knappogue Castle & Gardens, and the retail unit at the Cliffs of Moher Experience will now be managed, developed and promoted by Clare County Council as part of its existing portfolio of signature visitor attractions and sites, namely the Cliffs of Moher Experience, Loop Head Lighthouse, Vandeleur Walled Gardens, and the Inis Cealtra Visitor Experience.

The existing Shannon Heritage DAC, including 90 permanent staff, has also been transferred as a subsidiary company of Clare County Council.

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Cllr. Tony O’Brien, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, described the transfer of the sites as a “milestone moment for Clare tourism as, for the first time, Clare’s most popular tourist attractions will all be managed by one single authority.”

“The road to securing this transfer has been long but will prove to have been worth it for both tourism in the county and the local economy,” added Cllr, O’Brien. “Clare County Council’s proven track record of delivering for Clare tourism is matched by the decades of experience and dedication of Shannon Heritage workers who can now look forward to an exciting new chapter for Clare tourism and a brighter future for these important visitor attractions.”

Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council, commented, “Clare County Council is committed to the future development of the four sites and their integration into a tourism portfolio that boasts some of Ireland’s best known visitor attractions. This transfer allows for the development a broad, ambitious and quality tourism product and brand for County Clare, one that reflects the scope and ambition of the County Clare Tourism Strategy 2030.”

“I wish to acknowledge the Government for making necessary funding commitments that will enable Clare County Council to undertake the significant remediation works required at the sites,” added Mr. Dowling.

Tony O’Brien, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council; Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council; Conal Henry, Chairperson, The Shannon Airport Group; and Mary Considine, CEO, The Shannon Airport Group. Photo: Eamon Ward.

Conal Henry, Chairperson of The Shannon Airport Group, said, “I want to express my gratitude to our team at The Shannon Airport Group and to Clare County Council who have worked tirelessly to make this complex transfer happen. The support of Government has been most welcome. Most of all, though, I want to thank our colleagues at Shannon Heritage and to wish them every success for this exciting new chapter.”

Mary Considine, CEO of The Shannon Airport Group, commented, “This is the start of a new era in the rich history of Shannon Heritage as Clare County Council now officially become the custodians of these nationally important sites.

“Since 2014, we have been proud to showcase all that Shannon Heritage has to offer, nurturing local talent, providing permanent and seasonal employment for many young people around the region, attracting tourists from all over the globe and garnering international media exposure.

“Each Christmas, Easter and Halloween, special events organised by staff at the sites brought a sense of excitement.

“I would like to sincerely thank the wonderful team across Shannon Heritage for their incredible work and dedication, not just throughout this transfer process but in their everyday working life. From the seedlings carefully planted in the gardens to caring for very important historic buildings, every inch has been proudly cared for by passionate staff.

“At The Shannon Airport Group, we close this chapter today with immense pride in Shannon Heritage and will maintain a strong relationship with these iconic visitor attractions by continuing to grow vital air services that provide a gateway for international tourists to experience that touch of magic that Shannon Heritage and all its team, brings to the region and beyond,” added Ms. Considine.

Clare County Council’s Director of Tourism Development Leonard Cleary, stated, “The Local Authority is committed to working with the key stakeholders including the trustees, workers, tenants, and the wider tourism industry in the hinterland to develop a sustainable future for the assets and for the host communities in which they are located.”

He continued, “Clare County Council looks forward to engaging collaboratively with the OPW, Fáilte Ireland and other State agencies to ensure the potential of each of these assets is maximised for the betterment of tourism in County Clare and the wider Mid-West Region.”

“I want to acknowledge our team for working comprehensively on the due diligence and transfer project over the past two years,” concluded Mr. Cleary.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan TD and the Minister of State for Transport, Jack Chambers TD today welcomed the transfer of Shannon Heritage from The Shannon Airport Group to Clare County Council.  The necessary consents to enable the transfer have been provided by Minister Ryan and the Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, Pascal Donohoe TD.

The management and operation of a number of heritage sites in County Clare including Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Craggaunowen and Knappogue Castle will transfer to the Council. Government is pleased to be supporting the transfer through a significant funding package including the provision of up to €6m to Clare County Council this year.

Speaking today, Minister Ryan said: “I am delighted that the transfer of Shannon Heritage from the Shannon Airport Group to Clare County Council is now complete. Not only does this transfer offer security for the future of the business and heritage sites, it is also especially important in providing continuity of employment for the staff of Shannon Heritage.”

Minister of State Jack Chambers said: “This agreement is the culmination of extensive effort and engagement from both Shannon Airport Group and Clare County Council, and I would like to thank them for the sustained commitment they have shown to reach this point. These sites are of huge cultural value, and I believe the transfer will ensure their continued access by the community and wider public.”

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD also welcomed the news, stating “the transfer of Shannon Heritage to Clare County Council is a positive move for all concerned. I believe Clare County Council will fully realise the great potential these sites have to complement and augment the tourism offering in Clare, bringing more visitors to Clare and the wider region.”

Minister of State with responsibility for Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan TD said “Bunratty Castle, a National Monument, will now transfer to Clare County Council. I look forward to the OPW continuing its engagement with the Council in relation to the conservation of the castle, safeguarding it for future generations to come.

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