Elusive Cork event centre already cost taxpayer €633k

More than €600,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on the controversial Cork event centre project ever before a brick is laid.

Cork City Council confirmed yesterday that “€367,000 remains” of the €1m it has received from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for the scheme.

That means that €633,000 has been spent on what the council described as “costs in relation to economic advice for the project and professional fees for carrying out the public procurement processes”.

It is understood that most of the money has been spent on legal advice designed to protect the taxpayers’ investment in the project, and to ensure the Exchequer is not exposed in the event of any legal challenge to the original tender process.

The council is overseeing the protracted tender process which in December 2014 sanctioned €20m in State aid for the then €53m project — with €12m pledged by the Department and €8m from the council.

Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod on the project on the former Beamish and Crawford site in February 2016, but following a complete redesign to make the venue financially viable, costs have soared to close to €73m. A request for an extra €10m in State funding has been made, with BAM and Live Nation expected to cough up another €10m.

Last February, BAM said a funding deal had been agreed in principle, with approvals expected by the end of that month. It also said it was confident that construction would start in the third quarter of the year.

But Tánaiste Simon Coveney said last week that several Government departments are still finalising complex legal issues around the various funding streams.

When Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath asked Culture Minister Josepha Madigan for an update on her Department’s consideration of the extra funding requests, she said it is still analysing the application. Mr McGrath said it is clear that no quick decision on the project is likely.

Meanwhile, an exhibition of items, including several Viking artefacts, found during excavations of the former brewery site is due to open in Cork’s public museum towards the end of next week.

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