In what is understood were non-scripted remarks, Junior Minister Noel Ahern told the Dáil last week “many things need to be done locally first, the proposal can be improved and it may be considered next year”.
Fine Gael described his remarks as a “kick in the teeth” for the Cork region.
“Claims by the minister that the Cork Docklands needs to be ‘improved’ and is not ready for launch are an insult to everyone who has worked tirelessly on the project,” said FG Cork South-Central TD Deirdre Clune.
“Extensive proposals have been drawn up for the project, which is included in the National Spatial Strategy and the National Development Plan. The least we could expect is some support from the Government,” she added.
Under the e2 billion regeneration plan, homes, offices and leisure space will be built on the 166-hectare docklands site.
Prior to Christmas, the Government signalled that tax incentives to encourage development in the docklands would be announced in the Finance Bill 2008.
But when that bill was published recently, it overlooked the Cork project, with Finance Minister Brian Cowen saying more time was needed to determine what incentives could be provided under EU state-aid rules.
The remarks of Mr Ahern, who is junior minister at the Department of Finance, indicate the Cork region will have to wait until next year’s Finance Bill for any incentives to be announced.
Speaking at a Fianna Fáil function in Cork over the weekend, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern insisted his party would “continue to lead the development of Cork Docklands”, and dismissed opposition efforts “to score cheap political points”.
However, he failed to provide any timeline for the tax incentives, merely saying: “We will provide the support and incentives that the development of the docklands needs — when they are needed.”