The Tánaiste is working on an initiative to save the stalled Cork event centre project from collapse amid concerns that an extra €10m in State aid may not be enough to get the controversial project over the line.
Simon Coveney said details of the “new initiative”, designed to bring “certainty” to the project, should emerge in the coming weeks. But he said other issues, aside from the additional funding request, are now part of the negotiations.
He declined to say if or when construction on the proposed 6,000-seat venue will start, insisting however that all parties involved are still committed to delivering the project.
The events centre is a key part of BAM’s €160m Brewery Quarter regeneration of the historic former Beamish and Crawford brewery site.
BAM won a competitive tender just over three years ago for €20m in State aid to support the development of an events centre in Cork. Next month marks the second anniversary of the sod turning on the project by former taoiseach Enda Kenny. Construction has yet to start.
Following a major redesign, costs have soared, resulting in a request for an additional €16m. However, legal advice suggests Government can only sanction a further €10m before the original tender process could be open to legal challenge.
The additional funding request was submitted to the Government late last year and Mr Coveney said the State is still looking at that request.
“We’ve been assessing that ask in detail and there’s been a lot of work over Christmas on this,” he said.
“The last meeting I had before we broke up for Christmas was with the department of public expenditure, specifically on the event centre. And the first meeting I had in the new year was with the chief executive (of Cork City Council) and her team on the events centre.
"There is a good partnership between local and national government and we are determined to make it happen.
“I suspect that in the coming weeks, you’ll see a new proposal on the basis of the same process that we’ve been following now for four years. There will be a new initiative to try to finally get certainty on when this is going to happen,” the Tánaiste said.
However, Mr Coveney also confirmed that other issues are now at play.
“We have legal advice which is very clear — that if the Government chose to put an extra €10m into the project, that that would be as far as we could go in terms of funding the actual building of the events centre itself.
“That poses some questions that we need to make sure that we are clear of, in terms of the answers. We can’t go beyond that without changing the process itself. That has posed some challenges but I think we can work through that.”
Construction is well under way on the student apartment element of the Brewery Quarter project.
A report last week confirmed the existence of important Viking artefacts on a portion of the site.
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