Dublin Waterworld to hand aquatic centre back to State


Dublin Waterworld's controversial stewardship of the National Aquatic Centre will come to an end at midnight tonight when the company hands the €62 million centre back to the State.

The handover represents one of the final acts of a saga that started when a dormant company was selected by State company Campus & Stadium Ireland Development (CSID) to run the centre in Abbotstown, Dublin.

The affair reached its height in 2002 when the Government stood down CSID executive chairman Paddy Teahon, one of the closest aides to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, over the award of contracts to run the centre.

Given repeated claims of serious structural defects in Abbotstown, engineers for CSID will start a "health check" examination of the centre's swimming pool and buildings tomorrow.

CSID chief executive Donagh Morgan expressed confidence yesterday that there were no flaws and said the centre would be open to the public as usual during the examination.

"It will commence straightaway and we would be very anxious to have it completed as quickly as possible. As far as we are concerned, we are very anxious that the centre should continue to operate as normal."

Eighty-one full- and part-time staff will transfer after the handover to a new CSID subsidiary, CSID Operations Ltd, which will run the centre. Mr Morgan said the CSID board had not yet decided whether to seek another private company to succeed Dublin Waterworld as operator.

CSID takes control of the centre in line with a settlement of Dublin Waterworld's Supreme Court appeal against a High Court order for repossession due to "wilful" breaches of its lease.

The repossession brings one part of the affair to a close, but CSID's claim for €10.2 million in VAT repayments from the company remain outstanding. Dublin Waterworld has taken a separate Supreme Court challenge to a ruling that it should pay. "As far as we're concerned," Mr Morgan said, "€10.2 million is outstanding."

Originally based in Kerry, Dublin Waterworld entered the frame only after dormant company Waterworld UK pulled out of the project. The High Court found Dublin Waterworld breached its lease on the very day that it was signed by going "behind the back" of CSID to assign beneficial ownership to Limerick businessman Pat Mulcair.