A loan must form part of the extra State funding for the Cork event centre, insists the Tánaiste.
Simon Coveney said the contentious €9m loan element of the increased €30m State funding injection into the stalled project is “part of the legal model” required to ensure the increased funding remains consistent with the original tendering process over four years ago.
And legal contacts between Cork City Council, the Department of Culture, and the Attorney General’s (AG) office are ongoing to work out the “legal and financial model to deliver that”, he said.
He made his comments last night ahead of today’s third anniversary of the sod turning on the former Beamish & Crawford brewery site on South Main St.
It was confirmed just before Christmas that the State was legally cleared to up its investment in the project from €20m to €30m but concerns were raised two weeks ago over the inclusion of a “repayable loan element”.
The council is seeking fresh legal advice on the department’s insistence that €9m of the €30m has to be a repayable loan.
Mr Coveney said: “I’ve always said that I’m confident that this can be delivered, but I’ve also, particularly over the last 12 months or so, been quite open and honest about the complexity of the project. €9m has to be a loan that gets repaid. That’s part of the legal model that’s required to stay consistent with the tendering process that happened four years ago. But we can do it with that.
I met the AG last week, Cork City Council the week before, and the AG the week before that again, so virtually every week we have a meeting in either Cork or Dublin on making progress on getting this event centre project fully across the line so people can physically see it built.
However, he said that the project is still in the planning process.
“We need to resolve the legal issues in parallel with finalising the planning decision,” he said. “I think the timeline for both of them are probably roughly on the same path, there’s probably a couple of months in this yet.”
Labour local election candidate Peter Horgan criticised the delays and “continued secrecy” three years on from the sod turning.
“From talking with people on the streets of Cork, on the doors around the city, and with those in business, there’s a belief that this will never happen,” he said. “I don’t want to believe that but the continuing secrecy and stalling makes it hard to not come to that conclusion.”