The replica Jeanie Johnson famine ship, which cost the taxpayer €14m, is now valued at a paltry €150,000, with the visitor attraction haemorrhaging money on an annual basis.
Significant water damage to the vessel was discovered in 2011 but was left berthed at its permanent position in the Dublin Docklands for a further three years before repair work was carried out.
The state agency responsible did not have the funds for repairs. The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) claims it did not have the funding to dry dock the vessel for a number of years despite annual revenues of €30,000 being earned from the tourist amenity.
Repairs of €50,000 were finally carried out on the replica of one of the most iconic symbols of the Great Famine, with taxpayers paying for €25,000 to €30,000 of additional work since then.
Furthermore, the ship is not seaworthy and not suitable for training, as had been intended. A further €500,000 is needed to bring it up to the requisite standard.
Representatives of the DDDA yesterday admitted they had not followed best practice in failing to bring the ship into dry dock every two years to survey it, but claimed it could be worth up to €600,000 when revalued.
It was also revealed yesterday the ship cost the State at least €225,000 over the past five years, making a loss of €45,000 each year since it berthed in the docklands.
Last year, the costs — once repair works were factored in — rose to €65,000.
Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness was scathing in his criticism of the authority yesterday saying the scale of the losses needed to be determined before the ship passes over to the control of Dublin City Council, as the DDDA is wound down.
“Regardless of what way you look at it, it’s costing the State a considerable amount of money each year and if it goes to Dublin City Council, it’s still going to cost unless you have a business plan,” Mr McGuinness said. “Now we have to quantify [the losses] for the taxpayer, it is not acceptable as it stands.”
Fine Gael’s John Deasy questioned the DDDA’s insistence it had significant tourism potential in its current position: “If you do the maths, the number of people visiting the ship are very low— about 5,000 per year— and it doesn’t add up that it should stay there.”
Details emerged as the committee questioned the DDDA on a number of issues, including public sector contracts and the sale of a property to rock band U2 in a “secret deal” for what was described as a fraction of its value.
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