Gorey Guardian

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Courtown to lose the Seal Sanctuary

THE IRISH Seal Sanctuary has announced it is pulling out of Courtown, after a deal on a lease for the Forest Park facility could not be reached.

The Forest Park Board was informed yesterday (Monday) evening by Irish Seal Sanctuary chairwoman Veronica Bahnikova that the charity would no longer continue to operate out of Courtown.

The organisation moved to Courtown last year on the invitation of the Forest Park Board, which invested heavily in the site. However agreement on signing a lease couldn't be reached, and relations between both charities broke down.

A spokesman for Forest Park said it had invested considerable funds on the Seal Sanctuary's behalf, and wished them all the best for the future. IRRECONCILABLE differences over the lease of the Forest Park facility to the Irish Seal Sanctuary, led to the organisation's withdrawal from Courtown yesterday evening, Monday.

Pauline Beades of the Irish Seal Sanctuary confirmed that the organisation is now finished in Courtown.

' The lease they offered us was impossible for us to sign,' she said. 'It was only an eleven month lease. To have consistency of operations we had to have longer than that.'

' There was no point continuing. We'd built up the business and attracted a lot of people to the area, and in eleven months' time, it could be taken from us,' she continued. 'We're a not for profit organisation.'

' It's heartbreaking, to say the least,' she added. ' It's done absolutely massive damage to our organisation.

'When you invest everything you have, and have your supporters come on board, providing materials at cost or keen prices, it's difficult. We certainly haven't profited from it,' she said. 'We've no idea what to do now. We'll just have to regroup and see what we can do.' She said that for the summer season, they will transpor t seals to the Ding l e Wildlife Centre and to Exploris in Northern Ireland and also to Cornwall. However, they have no idea what will happen when things get really busy in the winter.

'Hopefully we'll find some new home,' she said. 'It's probably the lowest point for us. We said we needed at least a three year lease.'

'It's a big loss for Courtown,' she said. 'I think it was a popular venture in the area. It's very, very disappointing.'

Tony Sutton, a spokesperson for the Board of Forest Park said last night they had invested considerable funds on the Seal Sanctuary's behalf.

' They did get an extra year looking after seals that they wouldn't have had if we hadn't stepped in,' he said. 'We wish them all the best for the future and hope they have every success.'