Cork County Council has said it acknowledges the public desire to see Camden Fort Meagher reopened “sooner rather than later” but the local authority has said safety and staffing issues must first be addressed.
Councillors were briefed today on efforts to reopen the fort and were subsequently issued with a lengthy progress report detailing future management plans for the facility.
The correspondence, as stated at a council meeting earlier this month, said that the popular attraction is to be brought back under the control of the Carrigaline Municipal District (MD).
The council acknowledged the work of the designated activity company (DAC), which has managed the facility since 2018 on behalf of the council, saying the directors carried out their duties to the “highest of standards” despite many challenges.
The council said, upon closure of the fort last autumn “necessary due to a number and range of health and safety risks identified”, the directors of the DAC undertook a review of operations at the fort. This review is currently in draft form and identifies further challenges and risks, including staffing and governance matters, health and safety risks and financial matters.
The decision to dissolve the company and transfer responsibility to Carrigaline MD “goes a long way to addressing significant elements of the risks identified”, the council added.
Councillors in the MD, together with the council’s municipal district operations and rural development directorate will liaise with the outgoing directors in order to fully understand the issues at hand, at which point the draft will be finalised.
“Running concurrent with this process is the recruitment of staff for the fort, without which we cannot safely reopen to the public,” the council said.
“Following the appointment of a manager and staff, volunteers who wish to continue their work at the fort will have a defined set of tasks, hours and reporting relationships, which safeguards their interest in and presence at the fort into the future.”
The next stage will then be to develop a plan to “systematically address the recommendations of the review”, led by the new general manager.
“It should be noted, however, that the issues are significant in terms of challenge and scale, and resolution will take time,” the council said.
Fianna Fáil councillor Audrey Buckley welcomed the development, and the plans for engagement with volunteers.
“We’re a great MD. We work very well together with the council so I think we could get a lot achieved," she said.
“None of us are afraid of asking a question or putting our two cents in and because we live here, we would be able to input from the community and make suggestions."
Ms Buckley also welcomed that the local authority is planning to facilitate a briefing with fort volunteers in the near future, and plans to allow supervised access to the fort to enable volunteers to retrieve their belongings.