GOVERNMENT funding of almost €4 million for the Inis Cealtra (Holy Island) Visitor Experience has cleared the way for an ambitious tourism and regeneration project to develop Mountshannon and the broader East Clare area as any international visitor destination.

That’s the view of Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey who said that a €3,906,252 allocation from the latest round of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) will transform the Old Rectory in Mountshannon into the gateway to one of the most significant ecclesiastical sites in Ireland.

Deputy Carey, who has been a long-time advocate of the Inis Cealtra project, said it would put the village at the heart of a dynamic centre of cultural tourism.

“It will build on a range of tourism infrastructure including the Lough Derg Blueway, the Lough Derg Amenity Trail and the Looped Walk Project to unlock the potential for sustainable growth in the Clare tourism sector, as well as the conservation and promotion of the county’s rich heritage,” he explained.

“Clare County Council estimates that the Inis Cealtra (Holy Island) Visitor Experience has the potential to sustain 12 full-time equivalent jobs and create an additional 116 jobs through stimulated employment.

“From a current base of a few hundred visitors a year, the estimates are for 20,000 visitors in the first year of operation, rising to 75,000 after five years generating an annual spend of €4.3 million,” Deputy Carey added.

“The RRDF allocation will go towards the cost of repurposing the Old Rectory for visitor facilities; acquiring land for parking; delivering upgraded wastewater treatment in Mountshannon and providing upgraded public realm spaces in and around the village.

“The current wastewater treatment plant has very limited capacity. In the interest of public health and environmental protection, it is imperative that it has capacity to cater for future population growth as well as increased visitor numbers on an annual basis.

“This special place needs an iconic attraction to elevate it to a new level while respecting its sensitive environment and significant investment is needed to achieve this. 

“Clare County Council has committed to invest a further €1 million to the project and this, along with almost €4 million from the RRDF, represents a considerable vote of confidence in the project and its long-term viability.

“The current round of funding is the latest in a series of strategic investments aimed at upgrading the East Clare tourism offering as a means of creating and sustaining employment in the area.

“The project received funding of €920,500 in 2019 for the design of visitor facilities while the Old Rectory, which is an historic building dating from 1905, was purchased by the council last year. The council also owns Inis Cealtra which has links to other heritage attractions in the region.

Stating that the delivery of such a significant funding boost was the result of an arduous and detailed process, Deputy Carey paid special tribute to Clare County Council Rural Development Director Leonard Cleary and to local Fine Gael councillors Pat Burke, who identified the opportunity presented by the Old Rectory, and Joe Cooney for their work on the project.