National Diaspora Centre project axed as cash not available

Transport and Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe axed the planned iconic €26m National Diaspora Centre only after being told there was no capital funding for the project.

In February, Mr Donohoe announced the Government would not proceed with the initiative. However, documents released in response to a Freedom of Information request, show he axed the planned centre after finding out, post-Budget 2015, there was no State money for it.

The documents also revealed eight companies were short-listed for the centre, with seven not having funding in place.

All, however, stated they had the financial capacity to deliver, but would be relying on a mix of Government funding, public and private sector borrowing, philanthropic, corporate donations, along with local authority funding.

In March last year, Cabinet gave its approval to the venture, which the Government believed would become a major tourism attraction.

The announcement came on foot of a Fáilte Ireland report, which concluded such a centre would be viable and self-financing and would enhance Ireland’s tourism offering.

However, in a memo prepared for Mr Donohoe by his department’s tourism division, it stated it had been anticipated that there would be capital funding for the project by the end of 2014.

The memo later adds, however, that “it is now clear post-Budget 2015 that there is no Government funding available in the foreseeable future”.

The briefing stated the implementation of the next phase will commit all the tenderers to a substantial spend through the production of business plans and presentations and commit the Department and Fáilte Ireland to a process that will require the assignment of scarce resources to process applications and manage expectations.

The memo further states if the competition proceeded without State aid, there would be criticism for the Government’s failure to provide funding along with reputational damage and criticism for lack of state investment and the possibility of subsequent demands on the Exchequer to subsidise the centre.

Recommending the cancellation of the competition, the tourism division stated “that the complexity of the procurement process and the financial uncertainties of the current proposals present significant risks to the successful completion of the project in its current form”.

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