Criticism over Government handling of Web Summit grows

Event co-founder yesterday released correspondence highlight lack of engagement

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny responds to criticisms from Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave, saying the relocating the event to Lisbon is a 'commercial decision'. Video: EU Commission


Opposition parties and lobby groups have criticised the Government over its failure to negotiate with the organisers of the Web Summit after it had confirmed it had received offers to relocate the event outside of Ireland.

The Web Summit’s co-founder Paddy Cosgrave on Thursday published email correspondence between the company and senior officials in the Department of the Taoiseach in the weeks before it was announced that the event would be moving to Lisbon next year.

Fianna Fáil said the published documents highlighted the Government’s “complete disinterest in ensuring that the global event remained in Dublin.”

The party’s jobs spokesman Dara Calleary said the correspondence clearly outlined a lack of leadership from the Goverment on the issues.

“The Government has failed Ireland with the loss of this highly reputable global event. It has failed to secure future business in Dublin worth over €100 million annually. Ireland’s loss is Lisbon’s gain,” he said.

Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton also criticised the Government over its failure to address the Web Summit’s concerns.

Separetely, Dublin Chamber of Commerce chief executive Gina Quinn said there had been a failure to invest in infrastructure in the capital, which was now impacting on the city.

Web Summit emails

In the emails, Mr Cosgrave said he wanted no money from the State in order to keep the event in Dublin, but urged officials to co-operate on an infrastructural strategy for its future.

In a “list of asks” the Web Summit said it would like complimentary rental of venues such as City Hall and Wood Quay, city centre branding for Web Summit for two weeks leading up to event, access to Garda escort services for specific VIPs, and dedicated shuttle buses provided by Dublin Bus for Web Summit attendees.

He said addressing core issues such as traffic management, steep hotel prices and wifi was essential, but claimed that after three years of asking it had not received even a single page outlining a committed plan.

In seeking to get information regarding traffic measures, Mr Cosgrave said the Government had shown “no leadership, no coordination, no specifics”.

“Public transport and traffic calming are the two most essential issues inside your control and outside of ours,” he added, asking why there was no information forthcoming from the department.

Responding, the Department of the Taoiseach said State agencies had been “happy to support the Web Summit and help it grow in scale each year”.

While the Web Summit insisted it has never received direct funding from either the IDA or Enterprise Ireland, it has emerged that the organisations paid more than €700,00 over the last three years as part of ongoing support for the event.

Details of the payments came in response to the published correspondence, which outlined Mr Cosgrave’s frustration at what he perceived to be a lack of engagement by the Government on the summit’s future.

“You’re operating in a parallel universe where a jobs announcement or a photo opportunity at Web Summit is the biggest opportunity you see,” he said.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on Friday, Minister for Transport Pascal Donohoe defended the Government’s handling of the affair.

“We have been able to mount events that are even bigger than the Web Summit with great success and to the satisfaction of everybody involved in them,” he said.

“I’m confident that if an overall agreement had been reached in terms of the event staying in Dublin then those small matters would have been resolved, Mr Donohoe said adding that it was hoped the city would be able to recapture the event from Lisbon in the future.

The Web Summit announced last month it was to relocate to Lisbon for the next three years. The summit is expected to draw more than 30,000 attendees in its final year in Dublin in November. Fáilte Ireland estimated the event was worth €37.5 million to the capital.