The Government has denied claims it made no effort to keep the Web Summit in Dublin. “Every effort” was made, it says.
As the fallout continues after the Web Summit co-founder Paddy Cosgrave released email exchanges with the Department of the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and his ministers said the Government had done everything to ensure the event stayed here.
Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe acknowledged the contribution that Mr Cosgrave had made to Dublin and Ireland, but said “year after year” the Government had engaged with the Web Summit.
“Dublin, week after week, shows its ability to mount events that are even bigger than the Web Summit, with great success and to the satisfaction of everybody involved in them...Year after year, we have engaged with this organisation. We have supported its growth,” he said.
Mr Donohoe also stood over the Government’s assertion that both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland had given a combined €725,000 to the Web Summit — even though the money was in return for merchandising and advertising space.
“We paid for something and we got something in return, that’s the way taxpayers’ money should be spent,” he said.
Tánaiste Joan Burton said the Government had supported the Web Summit “every year and in every possible way”.
“I’ve attended a couple of fringe events in the Web Summit, and met people with their backpacks and their satchels and their devices, who, basically, are selling ideas and start-ups and tremendous energy. The Taoiseach’s department, as I understand it, made every effort to assist and, hopefully, they will return,” she said.
On Thursday evening, Mr Kenny also defended the Government’s attitude to the Web Summit, claiming it was “very supportive” of the event.
“I spoke to Paddy [Cosgrave] myself, when he was in Portugal, saying we would offer whatever assistance we can, in terms of what the Government could do. It wasn’t the Government writing a cheque here, but being very supportive along the line,” he said.
However, the Fianna Fáil tourism spokesman, Timmy Dooley, said that while foreign governments were working hard to entice the event away from Dublin, organisers struggled to get answers to even basic questions from the Irish Government.
“The loss of this conference is a major blow. It is more than the direct loss of revenue from delegates — we had a homemade and priceless event that marketed Ireland throughout the world as a centre for new industries,” Mr Dooley said.
“It was also an unparalleled opportunity for young Irish entrepreneurs to interact with the most senior, and most serious, business leaders in their sector in the world.
“And we lost it to a country that we now know just made more of an effort.”
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