The new Clasac centre in Dublin’s East Wall has been dogged by controversy. Last autumn, the local Clontarf branch of Comhaltas, which had been pivotal to the development of Clasac, was expelled by Comhaltas HQ, for reasons that were never made clear to the public.
Built at a cost of €9 million, Clasac is under-utilised and at a time of economic downturn it runs the risk of becoming an embarrassment to Comhaltas and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.
Labhrás Ó Murchú refuses to comment on the reason for the branch’s expulsion, citing “legal constraints”, although he intimates that financial concerns influenced the branch’s expulsion: “We are responsible for financial probity where public funds are concerned, and we have lived up to that.”
Diarmuid Mac Domhnaill, secretary of the Clontarf branch, now reconvened as Ceoltóirí Cluain Tarbh, says: “Clontarf properly managed all aspects of developing Clasac, and documentary evidence clearly supports this. Correspondence between the Department of Arts and Comhaltas obtained under FOI [the Freedom of Information Act] . . . validates the branch’s case in relation to a number of allegations. The Comhaltas auditor informed the department on 11th April 2008, ‘We confirm that all expenditure certified by this office relating to the Clasac project was incurred in line with architects’ plans and expectations and has been fully accounted for’.”
Furthermore, the local Clontarf branch obtained documentation indicating that Ó Murchú is fully aware of this.
Mac Domhnaill says “the FOI papers also show that when queried by the department the ard-stiúrthóir [Labhrás Ó Murchú] substantially modified his earlier statement alleging financial irregularities, admitting that ‘Our previous reference to mismanagement and financial irregularities in the project at local level in no way involved misappropriation of funds. It referred primarily to the fact that the local committee did not organise bank facilities in a timely manner to meet their building debts as they fell due.’ ”