Varadkar says Government is committed to Cork’s stalled €73m event centre

Taoiseach fails to provide details how €9m shortfall in State aid will be met

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny: he turned the sod of the 6,000-seat event centre in February 2016 in the run-up to that month’s general election

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny: he turned the sod of the 6,000-seat event centre in February 2016 in the run-up to that month’s general election

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has reiterated the Government’s commitment to Cork’s stalled €73 million event centre

However, speaking in the city he failed to provide any details on how it is planned to meet a €9 million shortfall in State aid which is being sought for the project by the project’s private sector partners.

Mr Varadkar said that Cork Events Centre on the site of the former Beamish and Crawford brewery in the city centre was not on the agenda of the Cabinet meeting held in Cork on Wednesday, but both he and his Cabinet colleagues remained committed to delivering it for Leeside.

“Given that a number of key Minister and key officials were in Cork for the past two days, it provided an opportunity to have meetings with all the different players involved in this project, and we’re working on a solution to that,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the project would being huge benefits to the city in terms of tourism, but he stressed the Government wasn’t the only actor involved. “Obviously the local authority is involved, and the private sector as well, so we need to come together and find a solution.”

Mr Varadkar’s predecessor, Enda Kenny, turned the sod of the 6,000-seat event centre in February 2016 in the run-up to that month’s general election amid great fanfare. However, the project has stalled since as the centre had to be redesigned and costs rose from €50 million to €73 million.

The event centre is to be built by private construction firm Bam and operated by Live Nation, but the amount of public money, originally estimated at €20 million made up of €12 million from central government and €8 million from Cork City Council, has since increased to €30 million.

Increase in costs

Last month, Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty reported to council that the increase in costs resulted in a 20 per cent increase in the size of the events centre, along with specification changes sought by operator Live Nation.

Ms Doherty said that Bam/Live Nation requested an addition €12 million in public funding plus that an estimated additional contingency of €6 million be funded from public funds. The council applied to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in March 2017 for this additional funding.

She said Cork City Council had been liaising with the lead government department on the project, the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs ,which requested the city council to obtain legal advice on the funding in terms of procurement competition.

She said the department had most recently confirmed that public funding of €30 million could be advanced, but the view was that €9 million of this must be provided by way of a genuine repayable loan.