CORK POLITICIANS WANT clarity on plans for the much-discussed event centre in the city after reports that additional public money is to be invested in the project.
The Irish Examiner reported this morning that a funding deal has been agreed that could see work starting on the delayed project later this year.
In late 2014, Heineken Ireland and construction giant BAM won a tender to develop the historic Beamish and Crawford factory into a 6,000-capacity events centre. Heineken pulled out of the project and BAM has teamed up with events operator Live Nation.
Some parts of the old building have been demolished but little else has happened on the site so far – even after a high-profile sod-turning event before the 2016 general election.
According to the Irish Examiner report today, the State is to invest another €10 million on top of the €20 million it’s already pledged into the project. The new investment will be for “supporting public infrastructure” around the site.
Private investors are also said to be increasing their funding by up to €10 million.
Both BAM and Live Nation had previously been seeking an additional €12 million in State funding for the project.
It’s envisaged that the event centre will be developed on the old Beamish & Crawford brewery, which was founded in 1792 but has long since closed.
In an interview with Fora last year, Cork Convention Bureau chair Seamus Heaney said having a purpose-built conference venue in Ireland’s second-largest city was “an absolute must”.
Heaney said it was “more difficult” for Cork to attract conferences compared to Dublin because the city can only cater for events with up to 1,000 delegates.
“We don’t bid for 2,000- or 3,000-person conferences because we wouldn’t have a hope of staging them in Cork,” Heaney said at the time.
Speaking today about reports of the funding deal, Solidarity TD Mick Barry said that authorities need to explain what is meant by the “support infrastructure” the State will be pumping money into.
“This ‘support infrastructure’ add-on means that the cost of the project is now €73 million plus €10 million with the State providing €40 million of the €83 million total. The taxpayer will now be covering half the cost of an event centre which will be owned and controlled by private interests,” he said.
Barry added that he would be attempting to raise the issue in the Dáil tomorrow and argued that the delayed project “underlined the case for a State construction company”.
Labour councillor Peter Horgan has complained that there has been a “culture of secrecy” surrounding the project that needs to end.
“If a deal has been done, then the public need to know the nuts and bolts of such a deal. The people of Cork want this to happen. They need this to happen but not at any cost or at the cost of democratic accountability,” Horgan said.
Written by Rónán Duffy and posted on TheJournal.ie, Additional reporting by Conor McMahon