Investigation into €14m Famine ship

 

An investigation into the Jeanie Johnston project begins today when consultants meet the steering group in Kerry County Council which is running the project.

The former secretary-general of the Department of Finance, Mr Seán Cromien, and accountants Chapman Flood Mazaar were appointed by the Government to discover why almost €14 million in State funding was spent on a ship worth only €2 million.

It is thought that the investigation into the Jeanie Johnston project will take some months to conclude.

Work on the replica emigrant vessel began in 1998. The project was conceived by tourism interests in Co Kerry, who planned to convert the vessel into a floating museum and sail it to the US in 2000. But the initiative was dogged by delays and cost overruns and the vessel was declared seaworthy only last June. To avoid liquidation, ownership of the project is to transfer to Kerry Group, Kerry County Council, Tralee Town Council and the Shannon Free Area Development Company.

The expenditure of more than four times the original estimate has been criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr John Purcell, and by the Committee of Public Accounts. In addition, a focus group established by the former Minister for the Marine, Mr Frank Fahey, said that there were serious deficiencies in the original plan, which itself was inadequately managed by the Jeanie Johnston Company.