Ministers intervened to break funding deadlock

AT LEAST two Government ministers intervened on Diarmuid Gavin’s behalf in a bid to break the deadlock over releasing public money for his controversial Irish Sky Garden project.

Ministers intervened to break  funding deadlock

Their intervention came just days before the garden was unveiled at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The move forced Cork’s city manager Tim Lucey to explain the council’s position to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, and Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

Documents released yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), showed that the council was ready to pay one of Diarmuid Gavin’s companies last May, but that the firm did not have a tax clearance certificate.

In an email on May 3 last, Mr Lucey set out the council’s position to Mr Coveney, who had been telephoned by Mr Gavin about the issue, and to Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s private secretary Eddie Kieran.

He said the council needs a company to have such clearance certs in place before it can make payments over €10,000.

He said the council had advised Mr Gavin on how to overcome these obstacles, and had indicated that it could give him a “letter of comfort” for his suppliers, confirming that the council was prepared to pay invoices, subject to the company obtaining a tax clearance certificate.

Mr Lucey said the council must ensure that it meets Revenue Commissioner requirements.

The money was subsequently paid.

Just over of €567,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on the project to date.

Fáilte Ireland has spent €430,153, while the city council has spent €137,127.

The documents also show that after months of tension over the project, and just days before Chelsea opened, Mr Gavin offered an olive branch to the council.

In an email to Mr Lucey, Mr Gavin thanked him and his officials for the “determined efforts” they had made to secure funding for the garden.

“This time last week, I found myself deeply exposed — not only personally but to those who were working in Ireland manufacturing the key features for Chelsea,” he said.

“I was deeply frustrated and panic stricken at the thought and consequences of Chelsea not happening.” he said.

“At such times, when emotions are overwhelming, one lashes out.”

He said he was “anxious to put all past matters” behind him and he had a genuine desire to move forward, forging a good relationship with the council.

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