Fears have been expressed about the future development of Cork’s historic Elizabeth Fort as a tourism asset following confirmation that funding is being prioritised in the Shandon area.
City officials have confirmed that capital funding from Fáilte Ireland for the 17th-century structure off Barrack Street will not be forthcoming in the short term.
They said that following discussions with Fáilte Ireland, they are focusing their attention on bringing forward an investment proposal on the Butter Exchange building in Shandon, which is more likely to get capital funding under the tourism agency’s Ireland’s Ancient East initiative.
The fortified fort is one of the finest examples of a 17th-century star fort in this country. Following years of lobbying, its ramparts were restored and open to the public two years after the State handed the keys back to the city to operate it under licence.
Preliminary plans were prepared for the development of a €3m interpretive centre in the fort telling the story of Cork, and for the recreation of a medieval laneway peopled by re-enactors, as part of a three-year development plan.
The site has since gone on to host food markets and theatrical and musical performances in its courtyard.
It was hoped the investment would help position the fort as a tourism hub in the city’s ‘Cathedral quarter’ and act as a catalyst for regeneration of the area.
But it emerged this week that the proposal hadn’t been developed to the required stage to qualify for Fáilte Ireland capital funding announced in June.
Independent councillor Mick Finn said he was disappointed given the work that had gone into the fort and the visitor numbers. The fort attracted some 36,000 visitors last year.
Mr Finn said Shandon Street and the Butter Exchange are important tourism assets for Cork which must be pursued, but not at the expense of the fort. Historian and independent councillor Kieran McCarthy said the fort has huge potential if resourced properly.
But the council’s director of corporate affairs, Paul Moynihan, insisted that Elizabeth Fort is “most definitely not off the agenda”.
“We are confident that with other funding opportunities, other possibilities exist that will allow us to add value and add to the visitor experience there,” he said.
City Hall said they must also consider the development of a range of other projects along the city’s historic spine, bookended by Shandon in the north and St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in the south, including St Peter’s Church on North Main Street as a museum or exhibition space, which could cost up to €200,000.
A Nano Nagle visitor centre is also being developed by the Presentation Congregation at their convent on Douglas Street. The €10m development will include a new heritage centre, an archives building, visitor facilities, and a cafeteria.
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