Loss of Heathrow slots could scupper events centre

Artists impression of Cork's new Events Centre

The sustainability of Cork’s proposed 6,000-capacity event centre could be thrown into doubt by any takeover of Aer Lingus that would jeopardise routes to London.

The long-awaited centre, which is to act as the cornerstone of a €150m area regeneration, would fail to attract large-scale events if connectivity to Heathrow is jeopardised, one of the co-developers has said.

Heineken Ireland and BAM Contractors won the contract to build the €53m venue on the historic Beamish & Crawford brewery site late last year.

The aspiration behind the centre was that it would transform Cork into a top European destination city and attract world-class events, Heineken spokesperson Declan Farmer said.

“Within that context having access to such a market as England is key to this. Should, for argument’s sake, there be any kind of threat to the Heathrow slots it could eventually impact on us in failing to attract key events that we’d like to have.

“It will also result in a failure to attract tourists which are key to the whole sustainability of the project… ultimately, if you were to take that to its extreme you could put a question mark under the whole sustainability of the project in the long-term,” Mr Farmer said.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has offered a guarantee that his airline group would maintain Aer Lingus’s current Irish routes for five years if it is successful in its takeover bid.

Appearing before the Oireachtas transport committee yesterday, Mr Walsh refused to extend that guarantee but said that as long as the routes to Cork and Shannon were profitable it wouldn’t make commercial sense to discontinue them.

Mr Farmer also highlighted the impact a struggling or non-existent event centre would have on local business, adding that infrastructure to sustain the venue is key to its success.

Heineken is still committed to the project and is working with BAM to bring it to fruition, Mr Farmer added.

The Heineken/BAM consortium beat the only other bidder to build the centre, developer Owen O’Callaghan’s €50m 6,000-seat venue proposed for Albert Quay.


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