MINISTER of State Hildegarde Naughton has assured Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey that facilitating the transfer of Shannon Heritage tourism sites at Bunratty, Knappogue and Craggaunowen to the ownership of Clare County Council is a top priority for herself and her Department.

And she has confirmed that a working group made up of the relevant Government departments and the Office of Public Works has been established to facilitate the transfer as soon as possible.

While a timescale for the completion of this task hasn’t been agreed, Deputy Carey said that the group is due to meet next week and he hoped that some progress would be made at that stage.

In a letter responding to queries from Deputy Carey, Minister Naughton said that a memorandum brought to Government in January 2021 noted Shannon Group’s proposal to transfer the business of key heritage sites to the relevant local authorities.

“This was considered the most appropriate option to secure the future of the heritage assets and its employees,” she explained.

“Further to this, Government has been updated on this matter through memoranda submitted in June and December 2021 where Government noted the progress of negotiations concerning the transfer of the Shannon Heritage sites.

“In terms of an update of progress made over the last 18 months, much work has been done. Shannon Group has now withdrawn from its management of all Dublin sites at Malahide Castle and Gardens, Newbridge House and Farm, the Casino Model Railway Museum, and the GPO Museum which was completed by the end of last year.

“More recently, King John’s Castle was successfully transferred to Limerick City and County Council on April 4.

“Work is ongoing between Shannon Group and Clare County Council to progress the transfer of the Shannon Heritage business and key sites in Clare including Bunratty Castle and Folk Park to Clare County Council. Clare County Council has identified a number of issues through the course of the due diligence process, principally around funding.

“While my Department has being liaising bilaterally with the other relevant Departments and the Office of Public Works, on the transfer of the sites, it has been decided that the most appropriate way to now progress the matter effectively, and to bring this matter to a successful conclusion, is to establish an interdepartmental working group of these stakeholders.

“My Department officials are aiming to hold the first meeting of the group next week, and although a timetable has not yet been agreed for the work of the group to be concluded, my Department and I are committed to advancing and facilitating the transfer as soon as possible with the support of all the key stakeholders,” Minister Naughton’s letter concluded.

PHOTO: Deputy Joe Carey with Shannon Heritage staff at Bunratty