ONGOING delays with the planned Shannon LNG project, combined with the replacement of Shannon Development by Shannon Group Plc, will put north Kerry's future development in serious jeopardy, outgoing Kerry County Manager Tom Curran said this week.
Speaking after announcing his retirement on Monday afternoon, the Cahersiveen native said the Shannon LNG project on the Tarbert/Ballylongford landbank is north Kerry's only real hope of developing in the near future. However, he said he fears the new Shannon body - which has taken control of lands previously owned by the IDA and Shannon Development - will fail to prioritise Kerry's development.
"North Kerry simply won't prosper without the LNG project, as it offers so much potential for the area," he said. "As well as building a power plant, there would be another 300-400 acres of ground that could and would be developed, but I don't see an alternative other than LNG." He added that because the focus of Shannon Group Plc is to develop the airport, Kerry simply will not be a priority.
Looking back on his seven years at the helm, Mr Curran admitted that another big disappointment for him was not be finalising the road network and bypass in Killarney, while having to sell the council's refuse service was one of this toughest decisions.
"I remember being at a meeting about 15 years ago declaring that the national primary road network in Killarney would be up to full standard within five years, so failing to see that through was disappointing," he said. "As for the sale of the refuse collection, it made me realise how the manager's job can be a very lonely one. It was something I honestly agonised over."
But with the disappointments, came several proud moments, including the delivery of both the Tralee and Castleisland bypasses, as well as the council's ongoing promotion of Kerry tourism and their ongoing association with The Rose of Tralee. However, coming home to Kerry and his elevation to county manager was his biggest achievement.
"After 15 years in Limerick, I thought at one stage that I'd never leave, so coming back home was a huge achievement for me," he said.
No stranger to arguments in the council chamber, Mr Curran said he will genuinely miss the banter with councillors.
As for any future plans after he retires in May? Mr Curran joked that he had no intention of joining Irish Water or any other state body, despite much speculation!
"I have no plans, and that's the absolute truth. My wife is also retired so we always said we'd travel while we still could, so that's what we'll do."