The Government will not write a blank cheque for the developers of Cork’s 6,000-seat events centre who have requested an extra €18m in state funding — almost double what has been sanctioned.
The warning from Local Government Minister Simon Coveney comes as the Department of Arts assesses the increased funding request from BAM ahead of a final decision from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
“The State has given everything to this project that it’s been asked to give,” said Mr Coveney.
“But I have made it very clear that this is a big ask and Government is being stretched, and that I’m not sure whether we are willing to put that level of money in at all.
"The State will put as much as we need to make this happen. But I have to make sure it represents value for money. Just because there’s an ask of €18m doesn’t mean that that money will be sanctioned.”
Some €20m in public funding was sanctioned for the project over two and a half years ago.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod on the former Beamish and Crawford site in February 2016. But apart from site clearance and archaeological digs, work has yet to start.
Mr Coveney, who has repeatedly defended the project, insists it is now in the final stages.
He said both he, and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, have made it clear that they want to make the project happen but that the Government has to test the new funding request to ensure it represents value money: “This is a very big project for the city and we need to make sure that one, it happens, and two, whatever we put in from the State — that we can stand over it fully as representing value for money.”
He pointed out that the development of the Cork Airport terminal cost twice what was predicted at the start of that project: “We don’t want this [events centre] project to go over budget. We want to sign off on a clear agreement and deliver it on budget.”
He also defended BAM and Live Nation’s involvement in the protracted process to date and said they have both spent substantial amounts on the project in recent years with no return: “A final agreement is needed on the State investment in the project, and when the robust assessment is finished, then the project will move ahead.
“There are a lot of hurlers on the ditch, trying to make political comment, which is reflecting frustration. I’m not in the blame game. I’m interested in making it happen. And, hopefully, we can get an agreement across the line.”
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