The final cost of the visit by Princes Charles to Sligo in May is now likely to be just short of €400,000 and there is doubt as to whether any help with the bill will be forthcoming from central government.
But when the cost was revealed at a meeting of Sligo County Council on Monday, councillors were in the main supportive of the view of CEO Ciaran Hayes that it was money that had to be spent and was well spent in terms of the promotion of Sligo.
The only real exception was Councillor Declan Bree who said he was “shocked” and felt that it was “over the top”.
However, the CEO outlined the international impact of the visit and the opportunity it presented to build on for Sligo.
He said the amount of people already following the route of the royal couple was “phenomenal”.
He said that anecdotal evidence suggested significant increases in coach tours, with more of them staying and spending around Sligo and he said there were occasions when Lissadell had difficulty dealing with the amount of coach tours.
Mr Hayes said the hospitality sector had also reported trade was up.
The CEO outlined the impact on numbers visiting The Model. In 2013 it had 77,750 visitors, last year it was 113,445 but this year up the end of June it was already 69,654 and if it continued at the present level would end up at 130,000-140,000 for the year.
He said that there had also been a “very positive advance” in terms of Anglo-Irish relations and he said it had “allowed Sligo to move on from the events of 1979”.
The CEO acnowledged that in normal circumstances councils agree budgets prior to undertaking works or projects but he said the royal visit was not normal and was “an extrordinary opportunity” and he said they had less than a month’s notice with some things changing right up to the visit.
He said that recently the Department of the Environment had advised a deputation of councillors that it did not have “a budget line” for the visit but he said that neither did the council.
“The options for the council were to seize the opportunity for Sligo or relinquish the opportunity having regard to financial issues. I don’t think we could have afforded to do that and no one would have thanked us if we did”, he said.
He said they would be submitting an application for funding to the Department of the Environment this week but he did not know what the response would be.
Mr Hayes said that they now had to look at how Sligo positioned itself to take advantage of the visit and develope strategies to build on its legacy.
The details of spending on the visit of Prince Charles by Sligo County Council were:
€175,000 Road strengthening
€53,000 Wages and salaries
€51,500 Maintence and repairs at The Model and accommodation for media
€29,000 Landscaping, grass and hedge cutting
€17,000 Street sweeping, road marking, etc
€15,000 Fencing at Model
€13,000 Footpath improvments (The Mall and Mullaghmore)
€10,000 ICT costs
€7,500 Professional fees, including training and bus hire
€5,500 Printing, stationary, hire of marquees and portaloo