Up to 120 jobs earmarked for Cork have been lost after a company claimed plans to develop an international training college were dashed by Údarás na Gaeltachta’s bureaucracy.
The project, and related jobs, are set to be moved to north Wales where local enterprise officials have promised more to attract the development than had originally been asked of Údarás.
The specialist training firm, Trident Safety Group, drafted a proposal and designs for a €3.2m revamp of the historic but decaying Coláiste Íosagáin in Ballyvourney, in the heart of Cork’s Muskerry gaeltacht.
Trident wanted to buy Coláiste Íosagáin for a nominal sum, pay for its development into a residential college for a revolving roster of international students and fit out a portion of the complex for Údarás start-ups.
The plans were drawn up during a three-year engagement between Údarás, the economic development agency for Irish-speaking areas, and Trident.
The Ballincollig-based firm had spent €78,000advancing its plans for Ballyvourney until problems surfaced in late 2010.
According to Trident, the deal hit the rocks when Údarás revealed it was bound by rules governing the donation of properties for client projects. It would only offer a long-term lease on the campus.
Last summer, Trident sent its plans to Jobs Minister Richard Bruton to advise him the investment was now likely to proceed in Wales.
Mr Bruton was told by the company’s technical director, Bernard Walsh, about the difficulty between it and Údarás.
“My fellow directors have decided to take a completed offer from the north Wales development agency, who have heard of our plans through one of our English companies and who have offered complete support for this proposal to be positioned in north Wales.
“I am writing to advise your department of these facts and to comment as an Irishman it is a shame that after three years in discussion all we attracted was more bureaucracy,” he said.
Mr Walsh said it has yet to sign off on a deal in Wales. But, while there was scope for last-ditch negotiation, it was unlikely the Muskerry plan could be resurrected.
Sinn Féin councillor Des O’Grady said it beggared belief that at a time when thousands of people queued up in Cork and Dublin to look for opportunities to work abroad, neither Údarás or the Government appeared willing to do more to accommodate the plans.
Last summer, Mr Walsh received a letter from Mr Bruton’s private secretary saying the proposal for the “joint exploitation of Coláiste Íosagáin” was brought to the minister’s attention.
But, in a statement, Mr Bruton’s department said the issue was passed to the Department of the Gaeltacht as it had responsibility for Údarás.
The department said additional information had been sought from Trident in April and again following the letter to Mr Bruton, but the extra detail had not been submitted by Trident.
This correspondence related to a grant application to cover the €78,000 in exploratory costs for the project and not the substantive issue of the site.
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