Funding gap still plagues stalled Cork event centre

An aerial photograph of the site of the proposed events centre in Cork, taken last month. Pic: Tom Coakley Photography

A ‘funding gap’ still hangs over the stalled Cork event centre project despite assurances two months ago that a deal was imminent.

However, all involved are still committed to delivering the 6,000-capacity venue, city officials insisted last night.

The news, which emerged during a meeting of Cork City Council last night, sparked a lengthy debate on the controversial project which has been dogged by delays, redesigns and soaring costs.

It is more than two years since former taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod on the event centre which is set to get at least €30m of public funding. But construction has yet to start on the former Beamish and Crawford site on South Main St.

Two months after BAM and Tánaiste Simon Coveney insisted a funding deal was imminent, Independent councillor Mick Finn quizzed city officials on progress last night.

The city’s head of planning, Pat Ledwidge, revealed there is still a gap between the level of State funding which has been pledged and the private funding which is due to come from BAM and Live Nation.

Mr Ledwidge said work remains to be done to “bridge the funding gap”.

“There is no final agreement on the finances although there is a willingness on the part of all parties to continue to a final agreement. There is no definite start date for the project at this point,” he said.

Mr Finn said the news was very concerning.

“Months have lapsed again since our last proper report where we were told BAM and Live Nation were going back to their boards to seek extra funding,” he said.

“This was in light of a new commitment to State funding and additional enabling works associated with the initiative.

“That there is still a funding gap is very concerning and I would like to know more about that.

“Part of the problem with this long-running project is the drip-drip nature of updates. I have no doubt there is huge work going on behind the scenes, but we just need work to start.”

Several councillors called for BAM to be invited back before council to provide an update, and for city officials to provide a detailed report on the various planning changes which have been granted on the former Beamish and Crawford site, since the original grant of planning for the Brewery Quarter project.

Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould said: “A line will have to be drawn some day. We need an updated report before we make that decision.”

But Fine Gael councillor Joe Kavanagh described the event centre project as a “beacon of light for Cork”.

“In a project this size, of course there will be changes along the way, of course there will be turns, swings and roundabouts,” he said. “I don’t think there is a conspiracy theory here as some people would like to portray.”

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