The Government has intervened in plans by the Trustees of Muckross House to shut down the Muckross Traditional Farms in the Killarney National Park as a cost-cutting exercise.
The 1930s style heritage park with replicas of pre-electric Ireland house styles and farm practices gained worldwide attention during the visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in June 2018 on its 25th anniversary year.
Staff were informed last week the company had been severely affected by the pandemic and on the advice of the board of trustees the traditional farms were to stop operating on September 1.
The move was blamed on social distancing requirements as well as anticipated losses of 70% in revenue in the Muckross House and Traditional Farms and crafts industry managed by the trustees were the reasons.
The news of the closure of such a key attraction had come as a shock in Killarney where the tourist industry is clinging to the hope of some kind of recovery.
However, talks took place between senior Government officials and the trustees were held over the weekend.
"The department (of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) is going to work with the trustees to ensure the project will remain open," a senior official source said. “It will be available 2020/2021.”
Up to 10 redundancies, which had been mooted will be "a last resort".
What will be envisaged if necessary will be re-deployment, the source said.
“We’ll work with the trustees. We don’t want to lose the farms. Other options can be explored,” the senior official said.
In the past five years some €10m has been invested in Muckross House including a restoration of the boathouse, chimneys, windows, kitchens and roads.
In an interview on Radio Kerry, the chairman of the Trustees signalled a row back on the “indefinite” closure of the traditional farms.
Micheál O’Coileáin said the farms were integral to what when on in Muckross.
The farms, with limited facilities, will be available to walk around from Monday until the end of the season and will be free of charge. From September the farms will be closed for a year or more, Mr O'Coileain expects although he agreed the situation is fluid.
Seasonal staff will not be taken on. Redundancies are the least preferred option but they have to be on the table – as the company will lose up to 75% of the income this year. The trustees have cash reserves to pay staff for this year, he said.