Midlands tourism promotion body in danger of closure

Withdrawal of €75,000 annual State funding puts future of Mid Ireland Tourism in doubt

Birr Castle, Co Offaly: Mid Ireland promotes some of Irish tourism’s most challenged areas, east Galway, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Laois and North Tipperary

Birr Castle, Co Offaly: Mid Ireland promotes some of Irish tourism’s most challenged areas, east Galway, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Laois and North Tipperary

 

A tourism promotion group with more than 170 member businesses across the midlands is contemplating closure after the State withdrew its funding.

Mid Ireland Tourism promotes the industry in some of Irish tourism’s most challenged areas: east Galway, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Laois and North Tipperary. It held a meeting at Mount Temple golf club in Moate, Co Westmeath, on Wednesday to discuss its future.

Pobal, which acts as an intermediary for administering State grants, rejected Mid Ireland’s latest three-year business plan a year ago, and told it that it would be withdrawing the annual €75,000 in State funding in June.

The cash had been paid annually under a community development scheme ultimately funded by the Department of Social Protection.

Pobal gave Mid Ireland, which had been in operation for over 15 years, a three-month extension on its funding from June, and the group then sought another extension in September, but this has recently been declined.

‘Strategic fit’

It is understood that the group is no longer considered a “strategic fit” with the community development ethos of the scheme from which it is funded, and the funders were concerned over the value the State received for its €75,000.

Mid Ireland, which operates from an office in Birr, has decided make its three staff redundant following the withdrawal of cash. Its only other real source of funding is membership fees averaging about €150 paid by each of its members.

Peter Ormond, the marketing manager of the Mid Ireland tourism group, said the organisation would be run “on a shoestring” in coming weeks until its ultimate future can be determined. He said the group hopes another branch of the State, such as the State tourism agency Fáilte Ireland or local authorities, can come up with replacement cash.

New promotion brand

He said it would also welcome any contributions possible from the €33 million ring-fenced by the State to establish a new promotion brand for tourism in the Midlands. The brand is currently under development, and will join the stable that includes the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East.

Fáilte Ireland says the brand and ensuing promotion strategy should be operational in time to promote the Midlands for next year’s tourism season.

“We have the experience here to help promote tourism in the area, but without the funding, it isn’t sustainable going forward. We hope a solution can be found,” said Mr Ormond.