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Connacht Tribune

Locals demand action on dilapidated Shannon Oaks Hotel

Declan Tierney

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The billionaire owners of the Shannon Oaks Hotel in Portumna – lying vacant since it was destroyed by fire in 2011 – have been asked to either redevelop the property themselves or sell it on to someone who will.

The Comer Group have come in for criticism for making promises late last year to reconstruct the hotel – and still not making any progress.

The Shannon Oaks Action Group said that the hotel’s restoration was necessary for the economic benefit of the town – and that Portumna had suffered financially from its absence.

The group have called on the Comers to make some moves towards the redevelopment of the hotel as it was an essential asset to the town.

Businessman Paul Dillon, who is Chairman of the Action Group, said that the owners of the Shannon Oaks gave a commitment back in October 2018 that they would be rebuilding on the site by the end of the first quarter of this when they had finished the refurbishment of the Shearwater Hotel in Ballinasloe which they also own.

He said that the final design for the redevelopment of the Shannon Oaks and an artist’s impression of what the hotel would look like.

“As we near the end of the first quarter of 2019, there is no sign of the builders or even the communication of the builders arriving on site for the rebuilding project.

“We would see this as not a good sign. Portumna is now going into its eighth year without a hotel and the Comer Property Group have the owned the hotel since 2015.

“Many promises over the four years of ownership have been made on the hotel being rebuilt but each time the company has let the region down.

“We fully expect the Comer Property Group to fulfil their recent promise made in October and November 2018 and start the rebuilding in the next couple of weeks as promised.

“We are hoping the Comers do fulfil their promise that they announced the redevelopment of the hotel with much fanfare and they even the attached pictures of what the new hotel wold look like,” Mr Dillon said.

He added that the only option left for the Comer Group is to either build the hotel or sell the property.

Luke Comer told The Connacht Tribune that the plans are to rebuild the hotel but he recently got a quote of €7 million to carry out the development which he said was excessive.

Local Councillor Jimmy McClearn has also expressed disappointment at the lack of progress on the hotel and described it as a necessary development for the economy of the town.

“It was generally hoped that work would have commenced by now and there is disappointment that this has not happened. And more concerning is the fact that there is not time scale for the works to commence,” Cllr McClearn added.

The Comers, originally from Glenamaddy, own some 40 hotels across the world including eight in this country.

Connacht Tribune

Athlone farm sells at auction for €1.4 million

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Farm at Castlesampson, Athlone

A 143 acre farm at Castlesampson, Athlone was sold by Public Auction on Friday 30th August in Gullane’s Hotel, Ballinasloe. Agents for the sale, Connaughton Auctioneers reported a large attendance at the auction with the farm offered for sale in three separate lots and one overall lot.

Auctioneer Ivan Connaughton, who conducted the auction, firstly offered the three individual lots for sale with highest bids of €115,000 on 13.2 Acres (Lot 2), €600,000 on 77.53 Acres with Farm Buildings (Lot 3) and €340,000 on 52.43 Acres (Lot 4). The overall farm (Lot 1) was then offered and bidding opened at €1,000,000 and reached €1,200,000.

After deliberation, the auctioneer sought offers for the individual lots and after brisk bidding, increased offers of €125,000 (Lot 2), €680,000 (Lot 3) and €390,000 (Lot 4) amounting to €1,195,000, €5,000 short of the offer for the overall lot. One last opportunity was given for interested parties for the individual lots and the offers increased to €1,230,000.

Before consultation with the vendors for decision to sell as one lot or in individual lots, the auctioneer sought offers for the overall farm in one lot and offers increased to €1,300,000.

After a break for consultation, the decision was made to sell the farm in one lot. The auctioneer informed the attendees of the decision and outlined the offer of €1,300,000 was short of expectation and sought increased offers. Offers increased to €1,400,000 and after a short break, the auctioneer returned to the podium and declared the property to be on the open market and selling.

No additional offers were received and the hammer fell at €1,400,000 to a local farmer.

Auctioneer Ivan Connaughton stated after the auction: “We were delighted with the result. It is an exceptional farm with an extensive range of farm buildings. Its location close to Athlone and Ballinasloe was a major benefit in the sale. We had interest from all over Ireland. There was interest in all lots with many disappointed under bidders for the individual lots. I wish the purchasers the best of luck with their new farm. We now need similar farms and parcel of lands for interested parties on our database”, concluded Ivan

Solicitor for the carriage of sale was Dara Hayden from Hayden & Co. Solicitors, Athlone.

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Connacht Tribune

Future of beef industry in doubt

Francis Farragher

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Minister Michael Creed
Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed

STARK warnings have been issued this week that ongoing protests outside meat plants by one splinter farming organisation could jeopardise the whole future of the Irish cattle and beef industry.

Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, in an open letter to farmer protesters, said that over recent weeks their message had been heard loud and clear, leading to the agreement that was hammered out after 36 hours of talks last weekend.

“Over the weekend, huge efforts were made to reach an agreement, to signal to you, that not only have your voices been heard – but that things are going to change. That is why the leaders of the IFA, Macra na Feirme, ICMSA, ICSA, INHFA and the Beef Plan Movement backed the agreement.

“That is why the representatives of the Independent Farmers of Ireland said that they agreed to recommend the deal to those of you at the factory gates who sent them. All of these people who represent the vast majority of farmers in Ireland believed that this was a decent start on a way forward,” said Minister Creed.

He pleaded with farmers still protesting (the Independent Farmers of Ireland) not to be responsible for the destruction of the Irish beef industry. “Those of you who are minded to continue the protest must now be fully aware of your responsibilities. The future of the Irish beef sector is in your hands . . . the futures of your fellow farmers are in your hands,” said Minister Creed.

Galway IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell, said that the time was right to ‘give the agreement a chance’ as many beef farmers were coming under the most extreme financial pressure. “We need to get cattle moving again. The message has been delivered as regards the plight of beef farmers. An agreement has been reached – we have to give it a chance,” she said.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Portumna seeks slice of Downton Abbey action!

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Portumna connection…Princess Mary (actress Kate Phillips) in Downton Abbey.

The release of its first silver screen drama has seen the spread of Downton Abbey fever all over again – and one local Junior Minister wants to see Galway cash in on its new connection.

Because, according to Ciaran Cannon, the appearance in the movie of Princess Mary – a visitor to the fictional Crawley family seat – creates a direct Downton link to Portumna Castle.

And the Minister for the Diaspora and International Development is urging the tourism sector in Portumna to make use of the town`s connection to boost visitor numbers.

“Fans of ‘Downton Abbey’ will be flocking to movie theatres in droves to see the hit drama revived for the big-screen and interestingly, from the point of view of East Galway`s history, the movie version features the real-life character of Princess Mary,” he said.

Because the real-life character of Princess Mary visited Portumna in 1928; her husband was the last owner of Portumna Castle prior to it being acquired by the State.

The new cinematic outing for Downton Abbey sees the servants and aristocrats of the famous house receive a visit from King George V and his wife Queen Mary, prompting much panic and excitement.

One of the most prominent royals featured in the film is that of Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood – played by Peaky Blinders actress Kate Phillips.

The real Princess Mary was the only daughter of King George V and his wife Queen Mary. She had two older brothers – the future kings Edward VIII and George VI, the latter being the father of Queen Elizabeth II.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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