Simon Coveney said he understands the frustration over the chronic delays blighting the project for the last four years but he said people should “take encouragement” at the thorough examination of the requests for additional State funding.
“If this wasn’t going to work out, I think it would have collapsed by now,” he said.
“I believe that all of this will come together, and hopefully, we’ll be in a position along with BAM, Live Nation, and Cork City Council, to bring a lot more clarity to these issues soon,”
Mr Coveney said he hopes clarity can be provided before the Dáil’s summer recess in mid-July.
Developers BAM won a competitive tender bid in late 2014 for €20m State funding for a 6,000-seat events centre project, estimated to cost €50m, on the site of the former Beamish and Crawford brewery. Former taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod in February 2016.
However, when Live Nation signed up as venue operators, a complete redesign was ordered, leading to an enlarged venue, costs soaring to between €75m and €80m, and the State being asked for another €10m.
After months of uncertainty, the outline of a new funding deal was announced in February, with hopes expressed that building would start before the end of this year. However, last month, BAM boss Theo Cullinane said meeting those timelines would be tight.
Speaking in Cork yesterday, Mr Coveney said legal issues on the funding are still being dealt with.
“There have been significant files gone between the Attorney General’s office, Cork City Council, and the Department of Culture, in the last number of weeks,” he said.
“I had a meeting in the last week with [Culture Minister] Josepha Madigan and the secretary general of her department. Most of the money for this project, in terms of State support, will be coming through the Department of Culture and they need to be satisfied that if they are providing very significant grant-aid to a project like this, that they can stand over it, and take questions, if they are questioned by the Public Accounts Committee, that this is fully thought-through, legally sound, and consistent with the process to date.
“And while that is a frustrating process for a lot of people, I think people should take encouragement from the fact that this is taking time to be thoroughly done.”
Mr Coveney said the coming launch of an urban renewal fund will provide the “perfect vehicle” for significant public realm investment around the events centre site.
“So this is actually coming together, despite some of the criticism I get from lots of different sources,” he said.
“We are going to make this happen; it’s taken a long time to put it together. There’s been a lot of false dawns in relation to an events centre in this city. This is not going to be a false dawn. I am determined to ensure that that’s the case.”