Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
20. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when his Department will issue a decision regarding the funding request received for the proposed takeover by Clare County Council of the Clare assets of Shannon Heritage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46084/22]
In Summer 2020 the Shannon Airport Group informed my Department that it was necessary to consider a comprehensive and radical adjustment to its structure in order to secure the long-term viability of the Shannon Heritage business and its employees. Government noted, inter alia, the intention of the Group to explore the potential to transfer the business of key heritage sites, where appropriate, to the relevant local authority, which was considered the most achievable option to secure the future of the heritage assets and employees.
The Shannon Airport Group has had extensive engagement with the relevant local authorities since early last year. Shannon Heritage ended their management contracts with An Post and Fingal County Council for sites in Dublin on 31 December 2021 and the transfer of the business and employees took place without issue. King John’s Castle was successfully transferred to Limerick City and County Council on 4 April.
The Shannon Airport Group continues to engage with Clare County Council in relation to the proposed transfer of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Craggaunowen, Knappogue Castle, and Cliffs of Moher Retail Outlet.
The Department is engaging regularly with both parties with a view to progressing the transfer preparations. As part of its engagement with the Shannon Airport Group, Clare County Council identified a funding gap for which it sought government assistance to enable it to take over the sites. In response to this, in May of this year, my Department established an inter-departmental working group to consider the funding options. The group included the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the OPW, and the Department of Tourism Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media.
To date, the working group has met three times, and identified a number of ways to support a transfer. My Department has also met with Clare County Council and the Shannon Airport Group and has asked both to continue their engagement and consider the package of measures identified by the inter-departmental working group, with a view to reaching agreement on a transfer.
Once the remaining issues around the transfer are resolved, the Shannon Airport Group will be in a position to seek the formal consent of the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to execute the transfer of the Shannon Heritage business and the relevant heritage sites and this will be done with the agreement of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
I would like to assure Deputies that Government recognises the importance of these heritage sites to the mid-west region, and that this Government will continue to support the Shannon Airport Group to ensure that the transfer of the Shannon Heritage business and heritage sites will proceed as planned with a view to ensuring the long-term viability and success of the business.