Cllr Gerry Flynn is very proud of the Cliffs of Moher’s natural beauty but is not so so enamoured by Clare County Council’s charging model. A regular visitor to the Cliffs, the independent Shannon councillor contends that there has always been an historic public right of way onto the Cliffs of Moher but the council is charging people for entry with a per capita charge for car-parking.
“The highwayman wore a mask, but the council doesn’t wear any mask”, he said adding, “I know that the public are entitled to free access. I have no problem charging for facilities as you need finance to run any business, so I have no problem taking money from people who want to avail of services but they way you do it is like daylight robbery. If I bring a car to the Cliffs of Moher with four people in it, there’s a head count and people are charged €6 each and that is absolutely crazy.
“When I go to the Cliffs of Moher, I expect to pay for parking my car, but not this cloak-and-dagger operation. It gets on my wick that you are doing this to members of the public. It’s disgraceful and it’s something that I would ask you to desist from.”
In response the council’s deputy chief executive Ger Dollard said €31.5 million has been invested at the Cliffs of Moher and the local authority has clearly stated that the facility should run commercially. “To be successful, it has to be run along those lines,” said Mr Dollard. While acknowledging that Cllr Flynn is entitled to his view, Mr Dollard said the €6 charge goes towards providing facilities and he challenged Cllr Flynn to name any similar facility that can be accessed for just €6.
Writing in the Irish Times, Rosita Boland told how her father Joe purchased the lands at the Cliffs of Moher in 1964 when he was Clare county manager. Ms. Boland recalled how tourists parked on the road and “walked along a historic right of way” to admire the view for free.
While it appears that the public right of way has not been extinguished, visitors to the Cliffs of Moher, including walkers and cyclists, must pay €6 for admission. According to its website, “visitors without admission tickets will be asked to purchase a ticket at the visitor centre reception.”
The issues arose at the local authority’s February meeting when the Cliffs of Moher Centre featured in the Local Government Auditor’s Report where it was noted that unfunded balances relating to the centre have been further reduced to €1.274m. The auditor, Thomas O’Callaghan, indicated a review of accounting procedures at the centre was undertaken arising from short-comings identified by council management. Mr O’Callaghan also referred to a break in at the centre in October 2016 which resulted in the loss of funds to the council. It was stated that this is being investigated by the Gardaí. Final reports on matters concerning the Cliffs of Moher were not complete at the close of the audit and will be further reviewed at the next audit.
Cllr PJ Kelly referred to the historic debt owed for the Cliffs of Moher Centre and was told by finance officer Niall Barrett that there is a process of reducing the debt annually from income at the centre so that it will be eventually phased out.
Ten years ago the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, officially opened the new visitor centre at the Cliffs of Moher. Since then it has become one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions to the extent that last year a record 1,427,166 people visited the centre. Today it is a key Signature Point along the very successful Wild Atlantic Way.
Commenting on the 10th anniversary celebrations, Cllr Pat McMahon said he is very happy with progress being made at the Cliffs of Moher particularly as more than 40% of visitors stay overnight. Cllr McMahon also acknowledged that 130 people are employed in the centre for the summer season with more than 80 jobs during the winter, as a businessman he said he is very proud that the centre is competing effectively with the private sector. Recalling earlier times, Cllr McMahon said it used to be that Ireland closed for visitors on 1st September when the schools returned, but now tourism is an all-year-round activity, a dramatic improvement.
See Rosita Boland’s article, “How my father bought the Cliffs of Moher” http://bit.ly/2lOVkQW