SIPTU Organiser, Rachel Keane, said: “The meeting was held outdoors to accommodate the large numbers attending and to comply with Covid-19 social distancing restrictions. At the meeting our members braved inclement weather to express their fury at the decision by the management of Shannon Group not to reopen many of the cultural and historic sites operated by its subsidiary Shannon Heritage, and its refusal to engage in a positive manner regarding their future.
“Shannon Heritage operates cultural and historical sites from Galway to Limerick many of which, management has said, will not open for this season. It also plans to close Bunratty Folk Park and King John’s Castle on the 31st August. These plans are set to cause economic devastation to its employees and local businesses.”
She added: “Our members are committed to finding a solution that will see the continued operation of these sites. The management plan is solely based on the reduction of international tourists in 2020 but does not take into account the interest from domestic visitors which will grow significantly this season. Workers have reported that some sites are already are showing signs of decay due to the lack of attention. Our members believe if Shannon Group is not interested in operating these sites, they should be placed under the control of an organisation that is.
“SIPTU representatives have written to Minister Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin, to intervene in this dispute. To date we have not received a response.”
SIPTU activist, Chris Rowley, said: “SIPTU members are at the forefront of the hospitality sector in Ireland and we are committed to the historic sites where many of us work. We are extremely worried about our future employment and how the approach of the Shannon Group will affect our livelihoods.”
SIPTU activist and seasonal worker, Caroline O’Sullivan, said: “Many of the seasonal jobs at these historic sites provide workers with employment for up to 10 months of the year. This decision means that in 2020 and beyond I, and many of my colleagues, will be unable to earn money to pay our bills.”
SIPTU activist, Joe Kiely, said: “Limerick and Clare County Councils have passed motions seeking an urgent meeting with the management of Shannon Group to discuss this decision and its impact on the wider economy in the Mid-West. While we thank local politicians for their support, t is imperative that this is stepped up as we need action not just words.”