Fáilte Ireland’s new Platforms for Growth initiative which will invest €150 million into developing new visitor attractions across Ireland, offers a golden opportunity to revive the Salmon Life Centre project for Ballina, Senator Michelle Mulheirn has said.
The programme of investment is Fáilte Ireland’s largest yet, and forms part of its Grants Scheme for Large Tourism Projects which runs up to 2022 and will make individual grants available for large-scale visitor attractions of €2.5 million upwards.
Senator Mulherin has called on Mayo County Council to renew its interest in developing Ballina's proposed Salmon Life Centre so that the region can expand its tourist attractions and encourage visitors to spend more bed nights in North Mayo.
She said this week: "Fáilte Ireland is anxious to see the Salmon Life Centre project revived under its Platforms for Growth initiative. This is the perfect opportunity for all the stakeholders to come together and bring this transformative project for North Mayo to fruition.
"When the project was initially mooted about 10 years ago, the Council and Inland Fisheries did work and invested resources, including the undertaking of a feasibility study, identifying a site beside Ballina Arts Centre and obtaining planning permission, but it stalled.
"The project has been languishing and when I brought stakeholders together in December 2017 there clearly was a lot of interest in resurrecting the project. However, the Council again decided not to run with it. I believe they must do so now. This new Fáilte Ireland funding stream presents an opportunity to make it a reality. Action is required now to update the concept of the project and make it more viable.
"The general consensus in 2017 was to keep the life cycle of the salmon at the heart of the project but to expand on the interpretive centre concept, to include the natural heritage and landscape of north Mayo. The centre could be a key to unlocking an understanding of the dynamics that have created our natural physical environment and our flora and fauna in the region through a technologically interactive educational experience.
"Our national strategy to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM ) subjects, affords us a golden opportunity to respond by providing curriculum relevant material and experiences for students tasked with projects and further studies. It could also cater for the outdoor ethics programme, Leave no Trace.
"Both Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of The Marine Institute, and Dr Ciaran Byrne, CEO of IFI, were enthusiastic about synergies, the wealth of scientific and technical knowledge and expertise their organisations could bring to the table for such a project.
"For my own part, I can see the possibility of tying in with GMIT Mayo campus, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Coillte to develop the concept further. Suzanne Campion, Head of Business Development, IFI, and Dr John Connelly also had very constructive and practical inputs to the meeting.
"As well as catering for educational interests and needs, this project would add greatly to the experience we have to offer tourists in north Mayo along the Wild Atlantic Way.
"It would open up the development and promotion of our walks and greenway. It would complement the Ceide Fields centre, the Jackie Clarke Library and other visitor centres and ultimately the Mary Robinson Centre with its serious focus on global warming and climate justice."