The new Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, is “considering” a wide range of financial supports for Shannon Airport, he told Clare TD Joe Carey.

Deputy Carey, who is also the chair of the all-party Shannon Airport Oireachtas Group, raised the ongoing challenges facing the airport with Minister Ryan in the Dáil last Thursday evening.

The Clare TD also called for Shannon Heritage sites, including Bunratty Castle, Knappogue Castle, Craggaunowen, Dunguaire Castle and King John’s Castle to be provided with support to allow them to remain open for the whole year.

Deputy Carey said: “These attractions bring people to County Clare and the mid-west. It is crazy and ridiculous that the Shannon Group would close these sites, especially when we are pushing the whole idea of staycations.

“There is a major opportunity here: We simply need to embrace and support it. I appealed to the Minister to do precisely that.”

Deputy Carey told Minister Ryan in the Dáil: “We need state aid now, and we need the Minister to roll up his sleeves in the interests of the mid-west and Shannon Airport.”

In his response, Minister Ryan said he was aware of devastating effect of Covid-19 on the aviation industry “and the Shannon Group in particular”. The minister said he will “consider” financial supports “and any other measures that may be necessary and appropriate as part of a wider review of the Shannon Group”. He added he would be bringing recommendations in relation to Shannon to the Government “in due course”.

Deputy Carey also strongly urged Minister Ryan to back the Shannon Group’s proposal for more funding to keep vital heritage sites throughout the year.

He added: “Fáilte Ireland stated that it is trying to encourage people to holiday here with its Ireland, make a break for it campaign. We are trying to encourage tourism in Ireland this year, in particular. That Bunratty and other sites will be closed at a time when we are encouraging people to stay in Ireland cannot be allowed to happen.”

Deputy Carey and fellow members of the Shannon Airport Oireachtas Group met with the CEO and chairperson of the Shannon Group last Friday and subsequently attended the demonstration held by Shannon Heritage workers on Monday afternoon.

Deputy Carey said all members of the all-party group have since been provided with a brief from the Shannon Group in terms of the figures needed to keep the iconic Shannon Heritage sites open up to Summer 2021.

Speaking after Monday’s protest, Deputy Carey said: “It’s vital that we all work together in the interest of County Clare and the Mid-West Region to impress upon Government the need to provide the necessary resources to keep these vital State-owned assets open.”

Deputy Carey said a further extension in the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) will be announced this week in the July stimulus, which he said will help offset “a large percentage of the costs to keeping our heritage sites open”.

The Clare TD added: “It’s vital Minister Ryan and the Minister for Tourism, Catherine Martin, provide the necessary financial package to enable Shannon Heritage sites to remain open and bring certainty for Shannon Heritage workers and the business communities throughout the county who rely upon these iconic sites.

“With a focus on staycations and clear Government advise not to travel abroad there is very strong domestic demand out there. While our heritage sites would have predominately relied upon overseas visitors, there is a real opportunity now to capitalise on the demand for staycations and to reposition Bunratty to the domestic market.

“In the Dáil last week I requested the Government provide the necessary financial support to keep the sites operational on a year-round basis and I have sought a meeting with ministers Ryan and Martin to discuss this as a matter of urgency.”