The culture minister has been criticised for not facing Dáil questions on the Cork event centre controversy for a third time.
Josepha Madigan’s absence during questions on the issue in the Dáil “smacks of disrespect and lack of interest” in the project, according to Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.
“This is the third time I have had a topical issue selected on this specific issue and on each occasion Minister Madigan hasn’t been available to come before the house.
“That’s not good enough and I think it smacks of disrespect and lack of interest in this particular project,” he said.
“Minister Madigan is the senior minister in this department and on three occasions she has failed to come before the house to discuss this very important issue, this crucial issue for Cork and the region.
“Whatever about once, but on three occasions, it’s not good enough. It’s just not good enough.”
The Cork South Central TD wanted to quiz the minister on the latest funding complexities to hit the stalled €79m project, as revealed by the Irish Examiner on Monday.
Following detailed legal scrutiny of Cork City Council’s September 2017 request for an additional €10m in State funding for the proposed 6,000-capacity venue, the Government confirmed just before Christmas that it could increase State investment from €20m to €30m —€21m in grant aid and a €9m repayable loan.
But the inclusion of the loan element has triggered fresh concerns for the process almost three years on from the sod turning.
The council is seeking legal advice on the loan issue and assessing its impact on the viability of the scheme.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney has insisted the latest issues can be overcome.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Ó Laoghaire said when the council applied for additional funding, it was applying for State aid, not a loan.
“At what stage was this loan first broached with the council?” he asked.
There is a lack of clarity here and it is undermining confidence in the project. Everyone in Cork wants this to happen.
“But we need clarity on this.”
Minister of state for public procurement, Patrick O’Donovan, defended Ms Madigan’s absence from the Dáil — she is overseas on official business, he said.
He said that department officials met council officials earlier this month to discuss all aspects around the public funding elements of the project.
“There are complex legal, State aid, and matching funding issues involved with this project and it is important that sufficient time is allowed for these and other matters to be resolved satisfactorily, and the Government is confident that this is happening,” said Mr O’Donovan.