Athlone’s major tourist attraction, the 800-year old castle, will now not be open for a second summer season in a row, Athlone Town Council was informed at its monthly meeting this week.
The castle, which was closed in spring 2009 to allow the €3 million regeneration plan commence, might now not be open to the public again until 2012.
“The opening has been delayed, unfortunately. I can’t see it open this year,” said Director of Services, Barry Kehoe in answer to a question from Cllr Mark Cooney.
He relented a little and suggested it might be later this year but added: “Being realistc, not before September”.
He told Cllr Cooney the delay was down to a “poor performance on behalf of the design team” - Hoskins Keogan Lindsay architects.
“They were contracted a long time ago but deadlines are constantly not being met,” said Mr Kehoe.
On March 1 last year the team of architects and conservationists made their presentation to the council with their plans for the castle, when it was hoped it would be re-opened this summer in time for the 800th anniversary of the first stone castle on the site built by John de Gray to cater for the government of Connacht.
At this time, all were satisfied with the sympathetic plans the architects presented, but divisions in the council became a little more evident at the May 2010 meeting, when Cllr Mark Cooney suggested the castle re-open for some limited tourist access until the renovation work began in July.
However, this was opposed by the Executive as the site was “hazardous without supervision”, and the council did not have a budget to provide this supervision.
“There is a level of preparation contractors have to put in place - it’s not safe to allow the public to roam around, our laws and our liability are different now. We have to take a little pain for a long-term gain,” said Cllr Sheila Buckley-Byrne at that time.