The planned opening for the refurbished Athlone Castle has been pushed back to August, it was revealed this week.
At May’s monthly meeting of Athlone Town Council, members were told that due to unforeseen circumstances the castle and new art gallery for the town will not open until August, a month behind the initially forecast opening time.
Cllr Mark Cooney said he was “taken aback” that it would be August before the castle and gallery would be opened to the public. “We’ve been told works were on schedule and that everything would be open by July, but now it’s August,” he added. Cllr Cooney asked if there was anything that could be done to speed up works as there is now a fear that another tourist season will pass and the castle and gallery will still not be open.
All members of the council expressed their concerns that the facilities would not be open by mid-July. Cllr Paul Hogan asked if the contractor could envisage any further delays. “We were told July for the opening date and this is simply not good enough. We made promises to people, why are we now looking at August?” Cllr Hogan asked.
Town clerk, Hugh O’Reilly explained that the gallery is on time but the castle had been delayed. He said that he was advised that July would be the opening date and that there was no specific reason for the delay. “The castle is a very restricted site, it’s an old building and it’s more important to get it done right instead of quickly. August is the current projected opening date,” he said. Mr O’Reilly also said that the art gallery can be opened ahead of the castle if the council so wish.
Director of services, Barry Keogh, advised that all they could do was to monitor the progress of the castle and keep pressure on the contractor to finish the project as soon as possible. “It all goes back to unforeseen circumstances,” explained Mr Keogh, “If the time has to be extended again that will have to be ironed out with the contractor. We are putting every pressure on the contractor to speed up the project, but I don’t know if it will happen. I can’t promise you a July opening date,” he added.
Councillors were told that the projected cost of running both amenities would be €180,000 for a full year and that this would have to be taken into consideration at the end of year budget meeting. Only €100,000 was put aside for the facilities this year as it was anticipated that they would not be open for the full year.
The council is also in search of a name for the new art gallery. The public will soon be asked to submit suggestions and a shortlist will then be created before a final decision is made by the board of the gallery and town councillors.