Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
200. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way his Department and the Government overall will support Shannon Heritage sites as they continue to operate through the Covid-19 pandemic and prepare for the management of the sites they currently operate to be divested to local authorities. [54695/21]
I would like to thank Deputy Crowe for his question in relation to Shannon Heritage which has been transferred to me for reply from my colleague, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
I can advise the Deputy that Shannon Group, and specifically Shannon Heritage, has received, and continues to be in receipt of Exchequer supports. In compliance with State aid rules, funding on an exceptional basis was provided to Shannon Heritage at the end of December last to cover the incremental costs incurred to keep heritage sites open during the winter of 2020. This funding is in addition to funding provided to Shannon Heritage under Fáilte Ireland's COVID Adaptation Grant Programme; the economy-wide supports Government has put in place including the TWSS/EWSS; and the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS).
The operation and management of Shannon Heritage sites is an operational matter for Shannon Heritage and Shannon Group plc. As a commercial State Body it is the responsibility of the Group to operate and manage the Shannon Heritage business in accordance with its commercial mandate. Shannon Group has advised that it is not financially viable to keep the heritage sites open in line with its pre-COVID-19 operating model given the lack of international visitors and the losses incurred as a result of that. However, while Shannon Group had planned to close Bunratty and King John's Castles following the Christmas period until Easter, the decision by the Government to continue the EWSS into next year has allowed the Group to decide to keep the heritage sites open in the new year.
The Deputy will be aware that Shannon Group is currently engaging with the relevant Local Authorities with a view to the transfer to them of the Shannon Heritage sites. My Department continues to engage with Shannon Group on this matter and I have been informed that discussions between the parties are progressing well and that the required due diligence exercises are underway. This due diligence must be concluded before the relevant Ministerial consents can be given to execute any transfer of the sites, with the agreement of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I understand that while Shannon Group had planned for this work to be complete by the end of the year, the complexities involved in the transfer of the business and the due diligence required mean that it will be next year before the transfer of the sites can be completed.