Varadkar to turn sod on Center Parcs Longford Forest

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will be in Ballymahon tomorrow to turn the sod on Center Parcs' planned €233m Longford Forest holiday village.

The Fine Gael leader is expected to take a closer look at the 395 acre site ahead of its anticipated opening in 2019 following an invitation from Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Burke.

The Dublin West TD's expected appearance comes four months after his last visit to the county.
That came as Mr Varadkar and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney battled it out to succeed Enda Kenny as party leader.

In his address to members of the audience at Longford Rugby Club, Mr Varadkar said he had every intention to return to the county at some stage in the future.

And while this Friday's prospective engagement may have come sooner than most would have foreseen, it is sure to attract plenty of political attention both locally and further afield.

One man who looks set to join Mr Varadkar on Friday is Center Parcs CEO Martin Dalby.

In an interview with the Leader on Monday, Mr Dalby said plans to open the UK leisure firm's first holiday village in Ireland in 2019 remained on track.

“We are delighted that 62 lodge platforms out of a total of 47o that are due to be created have gone in,” he said.

“The next stage in the autumn will be the awarding of two major contracts for the building of the lodges and the central facilities.”

The Center Parcs chief said fresh talks were in the offing with Gas Networks Ireland over when the development can expect to have natural gas on site.

A deal for that arrangement was signed in June with Center Parcs pumping in €3m of its own money to get the deal over the line.

Not for the first time, he was at pains to downplay what affects, if any, Brexit may have on its decision to branch into Ireland's tourism market.

“This is a long term commitment that Center Parcs have made.

“It's not a short term one and it will last for many, many years,” he said.

Mr Dalby added concerns linked to falling sterling values were just as misfounded.

This, he said, was influenced by the firm's decision some time ago to buy up a sizeable chunk of euros, thereby minimising its exposure to currency fluctuations.

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