Dublin Port boss says Poolbeg film studio plan is ‘daft’

Chief executive rejects ‘mad’ proposal for Hollywood-style complex on the peninsula


Dublin Port company chief executive Eamonn O’Reilly has described as “mad”, “daft” and an “attempt at a landgrab” plans for a Hollywood-style film studio on the Poolbeg Peninsula.

The port company will next month review its master plan which will govern the development of port lands up to 2040.

Mr O’Reilly said no provision would be made for the studio project.

Windmill Lane Studios founder James Morris and film producer Alan Moloney want to develop an €80 million studio complex at the new Poolbeg strategic development zone (SDZ), a 34 hectare site in the city’s east end.

U2 singer Bono has advocated for the project and lobbied former minister for the environment Alan Kelly to support the studio.

About half of the land in the development zone is taken up by the former Irish Glass bottle company and adjoining Fabrizia lands.

Dublin City Council has designated 80 per cent of these lands for apartments, with the remaining 20 per cent of this site earmarked for an office and retail “buffer zone” separating the housing from industrial land banks.

Almost all the remaining lands in the zone are port company-owned, and Mr O’Reilly said they were needed in their entirety for future expansion of the port.

Direct question

“Our view is very simple: Dublin Port only exists in Dublin Port, it can’t be anywhere else, whereas for films studios there are any number of locations.”

Mr O’Reilly compared the studio plan to the “mini-Las Vegas” championed by Tipperary TD Michael Lowry, and the Chinese trading hub in Athlone, both projects that failed to get off the ground.

“We have seen this before, there’s been mad projects proposed in this country – the casino in Two Mile Borris, the Chinese expo in Athlone, and I’d put this into the same frame.”

He said he was unimpressed by “celebrity endorsements” – in addition to Bono, actor Cillian Murphy has spoken in support of the project – and the use of “international exemplars” such as the development of a film industry in Montreal.

“It’s almost as if to say ‘Johnny foreigner did it, if only thick Paddy would look out overseas at what they did there’ – but it’s a daft idea. We have no interest in the project, we view it as an attempt at a landgrab. To us it’s just a distraction.”

The city council will in January publish the draft Poolbeg SDZ planning scheme.

Mr O’Reilly said he hoped to make the port’s master plan available for public consultation shortly afterwards.

Council’s plan

Mr O’Reilly said this reference should be removed from the SDZ before it was made publicly available.

“We are in no doubt in our minds that we are going to use all the lands that are under our control, so we don’t think it is appropriate to refer to them in that way.”

The port company recently bought 44 hectares near Dublin airport which it plans to develop as an “inland port” for activities which do not need to be at the water’s edge (such as container and vehicle storage).

However, Mr O’Reilly said to accommodate the expected growth of the port up to 2040 the remaining lands in the docks and on the Poolbeg peninsula would have to be utilised.