Government not yet in position to make announcement on America’s Cup – Coveney

Potential hosting of yacht race worth ‘full consideration’, says Catherine Martin

Emirates Team New Zealand (right) competes against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli during race ten on day seven of the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland on March 17th, 2021. Photograph: Gilles Martin-Raget /AFP via Getty Images

Emirates Team New Zealand (right) competes against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli during race ten on day seven of the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland on March 17th, 2021. Photograph: Gilles Martin-Raget /AFP via Getty Images

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said the Government is not “just yet” in a position to make an announcement on the prospect of Cork hosting the 2024 America’s Cup, which is facing internal resistance in the Coalition.

Mr Coveney has championed the project, arguing the prestigious yacht race is third only to the Olympics and soccer World Cup in terms of scale for host countries.

But others in the Coalition remain unconvinced as concern builds about the cost of underwriting the race.

Some officials believe the State could yet face costs exceeding €200 million to run the race, a big burden at a time of post-pandemic constraints on the public finances.

A report for the Government by consultants EY projects €150 million in costs and potential economic benefits of €400 million-€500 million, but there is scepticism among the Coalition about the prospect of such gains being realised.

Speaking after the Fine Gael party think-in concluded at the Trim Castle Hotel in Co Meath, Mr Coveney said the process under way to decide the host for the prestigious yacht race allowed Ireland to put its “best foot forward to compete to host an enormous global sporting event in Ireland”.

He said: “We have an incredible natural resource in terms of our marine environment and that process is still under way and we’re not in a position to make any announcements around it just yet.”

At the Sinn Féin think-in on Tuesday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was asked if she was in favour of the race being brought to Cork given the estimate of the bill to the State of €150 million.

She said it was a “very high cost” but that she has not “reflected deeply” on the matter other than to see reports about it.

Ms McDonald said she would generally be in favour of events coming to Irish cities and towns, “particularly post-pandemic where we need footfall, we need confidence, we need activity”.

“But obviously we have to scrutinise the cost, you know the cost benefit analysis of that, and I haven’t done that. It hasn’t been on my radar.”

Meanwhile, Minister for Sport Catherine Martin said the America’s Cup is a major event and Cork’s potential hosting of the international yachting race is “worthy of full consideration and the discussions are ongoing with Cabinet colleagues”.

At the Green party’s think-in in Airfield Estate in Dundrum, Dublin, Ms Martin said her department had been looking all summer “at the economics and deliverability” of Cork hosting the event.

They had engaged economic consultants to do a cost benefit analysis because of the short timeframe involved.

Ms Martin said that as Minister for responsibility for the issue it would not be appropriate for her to express a view “one way or the other until we have the detail”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said: “I think it’s appropriate that we really look hard now and get some of that analysis and assess the pluses and minuses.”