Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has condemned the government for failing to allocate funding in the budget for the transfer of key Shannon Heritage sites to the control of Clare County Council.
Key tourist attractions including Bunratty Castle, Knappogue Castle, Craggaunowen Castle and Dunguaire Castle were expected to receive investment funding of €5 million, which would have facilitated a transfer into ownership of the local authority.
Representatives from a range of government departments had been meeting as part of an interdepartmental working group in recent months to plan an orderly transfer. However, on budget day there was no allocation of the necessary funds to allow the change of ownership to take place.
Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Gavan said:
“I worked on this issue with SIPTU a couple of years ago. I thought we had fixed the issue. These sites were, effectively, going to be transferred to Clare County Council to secure the long-term future of the sites and their employees.
“They need between €4 million and €5 million in funding because there has been no investment in key sites such as Bunratty Castle for several years. Unbelievably, those workers were forgotten about in last week’s budget. I understand that even the people in Clare County Council were expecting an announcement and, frankly, I am flabbergasted.
“The government has completely dropped the ball on this matter, and as my colleague Clare Cllr Donna McGettigan has said the workers must throw the ball back at the government and demand they take action. An allocation of €5 million is a very small amount of money in the context of overall budget spending.
“Workers are now facing another uncertain winter, and an uncertain future, in respect of their livelihoods. This matter should have been resolved a couple of years ago. SIPTU members have stood defiantly, trying to find a secure future for these important tourist attractions.
“I am calling on the government to act to secure the future for these workers and these important sites which are a crucial part of the tourism offering not just for Clare but for Limerick and the greater midwest region.”