The Cabinet is set to discuss the stalled Cork event centre project when it meets in the city next week.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney confirmed that he and his Cabinet colleagues will meet in Blackrock Castle next Wednesday and that the proposed 6,000-capacity venue, where construction has yet to start three years on from the sod turning, will feature in their discussions.
While there were no signs last night of any breakthrough in the funding impasse linked to the €9m loan element of the increased €30m state-funding package, Mr Coveney said he hopes to be in a position after the Cabinet meeting “to bring clarity to the process”.
It is hoped that the involvement in recent weeks of Martin Fraser, the Secretary General to the Government and the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach, could help resolve the outstanding funding issues dogging the near €80m project.
Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted in an interview with the Irish Examiner that the 2016 pre-election sod turning on the project was a mistake.
Speaking after an Irish Examiner breakfast briefing on the future of Cork, Mr Coveney declined to comment specifically on the Taoiseach’s comments.
He said Leo Varadkar was asked a range of questions in a long interview, adding: “I think the important thing from that interview is that he reinforced the commitments that the government has made to make this project happen and I share that commitment with him.
“We are both absolutely committed to deliver for Cork in relation to an event centre and we are working with BAM and Live Nation and Cork City Council to make that happen and I think that’s the important element of that interview.”
Mr Varadkar is also due to attend a town hall-style meeting in the city on Wednesday urging a yes vote in the May 24 plebiscite for a directly elected Lord Mayor of Cork.
Mr Coveney dismissed concerns raised this week about the proposed €130,000 salary and the estimated €450,000 annual running costs for the office, urging people to focus on the bigger picture.
“What we’re talking about here is a salary of a junior minister, with some advisors around them,” he said. “We’re not talking about huge money in the bigger scheme of things. This is a city that spends tens of millions of euros and we are talking about funding appropriately a leader for that development.
“So please let’s not get ourselves cut up in the small issues to try to distract away from the bigger picture here. This is an opportunity for Cork to take a step forward to redesign local government in a way that connects the Lord Mayor to the people directly through a vote, but also in a way that gives that first citizen a lot more power to be able to deliver for the city on the back of the mandate that people will give them.
“That’s the key issue here rather than salaries and expenses."