Saturday 22 October 2016

The curious tale of Sharon Shannon, the blue macaw, and the animal rescue centre

Denise Calnan and Brian O'Reilly

Published 02/10/2015 | 18:12

Sharon Shannon and (right) Charlie the parrot
Sharon Shannon and (right) Charlie the parrot

A BITTER, and public, row has broken out between musician Sharon Shannon and the founder of an animal rescue centre she used to be patron of - over the homing of a blue macaw parrot.

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Ms Shannon – a well-known animal lover – was patron of AHAR, based in a €400,000 facility in Castleisland in Kerry for a number of years.

Sharon Shannon
Sharon Shannon

AHAR, founded by Suzanne Gibbons, has specialised in the rescue and re-homing of animals since 1991, and is well-known in animal rescue circles.

Sharon Shannon had been involved with the organisation for some time, and had helped to raise funds for the organisation.

However, as the row is played out on social media, the musician has told of her concerns from the fallout as she "got a lot of celebrity friends involved [in fundraising efforts]".

She resigned from her position as a patron with AHAR before last Christmas.

Recently a dispute has arisen between the two sides, over a blue macaw parrot named Charlie.

She has since used her Facebook page to highlight concerns she had about the animal.

Ms Shannon claimed she and two friends had paid €1,000 in 2011 so that the centre could purchase the parrot from a pet shop and re-house it in Fota Wildlife Park.

However, it is now four years later and Charlie remains at the AHAR centre.

Speaking to, Ms Shannon said: "Myself and two good friends put our hands in our pockets, in Galway on the night of June 22, 2011 where I was holding a gig for the AHAR charity, after Suzanne told us she wanted to buy Charlie from this pet shop and house in him in Fota Wildlife Park.

"She promised all three of us the bird would go to Fota and I thought, 'that would be a lovely thing to do to get the bird to Fota'.

"Ten weeks later, my friend visited Suzanne's house and the parrot was still there, so we started to ask questions. 

"I gathered a lot of support for AHAR throughout the years, and got a lot of my celebrity friends involved. Now I feel I'm literally going to be paying people back."

In an email to Ms Shannon, Fota Wildlife Park director Sean McKeown says he was never approached about housing the bird.

He says the park would be happy to house the bird with others of the same species.

However, Ms Gibbons strongly refutes aspects of the story as told by Ms Shannon, and told that she did approach Fota Island about housing the bird in 2011.

However she claims that at the time she was told by a member of staff at the park they would not be able to take the bird due to health concerns for other animals.

The member of staff Ms Gibbons spoke to in 2011 was not the park director.

Ms Gibbons also said that Ms Shannon has been at the AHAR centre on numerous occasions since 2011, and didn’t appear to have any issue with Charlie still being there.

However, she also said she would not be happy to give the bird to Fota Island park now, as he is settled in the centre and she is concerned the stress of a move could negatively impact his health.

The bitter row has escalated in recent weeks, with supporters of both sides making claim and counter-claim, and the story appearing in the local 'Kerry's Eye' newspaper.

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