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Dublin: 9 °C Monday 21 April, 2014

Relocation of Howth tourist office held up by dispute

Fingal County Council want to move ahead with new office – but Government have to give go-ahead.

The current temporary Howth tourism office is located down the west pier in a small room in this building.
The current temporary Howth tourism office is located down the west pier in a small room in this building.

THE SCHEDULED RELOCATION and upgrade of a tourist office in one of Dublin’s primary visitor suburbs has been delayed because of Government intervention, leaving local businesses concerned as the New Year approaches.

Fingal County Council’s proposal to move the information office in Howth, Co Dublin from its current location on the village’s west pier to the forefront of the harbour has been deferred as they await formal authorisation from a Government department.

The hold-up has been caused by an eleventh hour intervention by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform despite Fingal County Council successfully acquiring the relevant lease and paperwork for the use of the prospective land.

Works halted

The delivery of the new facility was close to completion when construction works were halted some months ago. The council was forced to suspend the project on receipt of a letter from the State Solicitor’s Office, which threatened legal action should works proceed further.

Local independent councillor Cian O’Callaghan claimed that the Department have failed to engage in discussions over the issue despite the council’s best efforts to overcome the obstacle. He also said that there is now no definitive time period for the completion of the project.

“The council was informed that these works cannot be completed until the Department of the Public Expenditure and Reform give the go-ahead for this proposal. No such approval has been forthcoming from central government,” Councillor O’Callaghan explained.

I have since written to Ministers Brendan Howlin and Simon Coveney asking them to intervene to ensure the immediate delivery of this much needed facility.

Given all the talk from the Government about the importance of promoting tourism and job creation, the obstruction by their departments is totally unacceptable.

A suitable kiosk was acquired shortly after the proposal was unanimously supported by local councillors and businesses 18 months ago. It has since been refurbished and it was hoped it would be in place for last year’s tourist season after traders urged the council to improve the facility.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine were notified of the council’s intention to use the open space opposite the village’s old courthouse for the office but the chamber were then advised that they would be required to pay monthly rent to the State.

Financing the new kiosk

Fingal County Council agreed to finance the entire cost of the project despite spending large amounts of their yearly budget on the maintenance of Howth harbour, which is one of six State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres.

A spokesperson for the Department insisted they were fully behind the council’s bid to improve the facility in Howth and claimed all is being done to ensure its completion.

“The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has responsibility for the management, control, operation and development of each of the six State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, including Howth,” the spokesperson reiterated.

Government response

“The Department is supporting the proposal from Fingal County Council to locate a tourist information kiosk on a site within the Fishery Harbour Centre and is working to guarantee the necessary arrangements are put in place.”

Howth’s tourist office is independently run by Fingal Tourism and is separate to the extensive network of tourist information offices and visitor information points across the country which are funded by Fáilte Ireland.

“Howth is one of the country’s most visited villages and the current information point for tourists is simply inadequate,” Councillor O’Callaghan argued.

“It’s currently at the dead end of the west pier and out of the way for many of our visitors. The new site is ideal given its proximity to the Dart station and several of the village’s attractions.”

Tourism is heartbeat

According to Central Statistics Office figures, the number of overseas trips to Ireland increased by nearly seven per cent during 2013 and the tourist industry remains the heartbeat of many of the country’s towns and villages.

With the New Year approaching and the new season on the horizon, traders and businesses in Howth remain angered and concerned by the delay.

“They are appalled at the delays and the non-delivery of a relatively straight forward project,” Councillor O’Callaghan said. “The real worry is the complete lack of movement from the Government departments with little indication whether the issue will be resolved.”

Fingal County Council are due to discuss the latest developments and the next steps they can take to ensure the delivery of this project at next week’s monthly meeting. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform remained unavailable to comment on the issue.

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