Des Cahill accepted last night that his comments earlier in the week, suggesting that the wrong site and developer had been chosen for the €53m facility, were “inappropriate”.
BAM Construction, which plans to build a 6,000-seat events centre on the former Beamish and Crawford brewery site in Cork City as part of its Brewery Quarter project, secured a €20m public funding package for the facility more than two years ago after winning a protracted and competitive tender process over rival developers, O’Callaghan Properties.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod on the event centre sod a year ago tomorrow. However, not a single brick has been laid in a project that has been dogged by design delays and final costings issues. It emerged this week that the project needs more public funding — possibly up to €10m — before building can start.
In an interview with the Evening Echo, Mr Cahill said: “The delays are appalling. It took a long process for us to decide who was going to get this. We can all admit that if the other person [O’Callaghan Properties] got it then we’d be having an event there right now. Along with every other member of council, I am not happy with the delay.”
It is understood that the remarks angered the city council’s chief executive, Ann Doherty, and BAM boss Theo Cullinane, who is due to brief councillors on the status of the project on February 20.
In a statement last night, Mr Cahill said the comparison between the firms and rival sites was inappropriate.
He said: “As Lord Mayor, I make no apology for representing the interests of the city and its people and it is true that there is a growing frustration with the perceived lack of progress on the Brewery Quarter site. However, my further remarks, where I drew a comparison between BAM and the Brewery Quarter site, on the one hand, and the competing event centre site in Albert Quay, on the other, were inappropriate and I have no difficulty in withdrawing them.
“Cork City Council remains fully supportive of BAM in its efforts to redevelop the Brewery Quarter site, and looks forward to working hand-in-hand with Theo Cullinane and his team at BAM to ensure this development succeeds for the benefit of the city as a whole.”
Mr Cahill said he stands over his right to speak out on the issue, but, with hindsight, he said his remarks “went too far”.
Mr Kenny, due in Cork City on Monday, is expected to face criticism about the timing of the sod turning, held in the run-up to the general election.
Local Government Minister and Cork South Central TD Simon Coveney has said the Department of Public Expenditure will assess any request from the event centre partners for a further injection of public money.