The stalled Cork event centre faces even more hurdles as talks to finalise its complex funding arrangement continue. If a deal is done, a cost-benefit analysis will have to be updated and submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure for their review and approval, city councillors were told.
And a preliminary submission on State aid rules which was agreed in principle by the European Commission will also have to be resubmitted. The details emerged during a lengthy debate at last night’s city council meeting on an update report from the council’s chief executive, Ann Doherty, on the proposed €80m, 6,000-capacity venue.
It comes just days after Tánaiste Simon Coveney called for “cool heads” as negotiations reach a critical stage, and as BAM was granted an extension of time to deal with a further information request on the larger venue.
Before Christmas, the Government sanctioned an increase in State aid from €20m to €30m for the project. However, the process has become bogged down over the terms attached to a €9m repayable loan element.
In her update report, Ms Doherty said she and officials could not have made themselves available for interview by Prime Time for its report on the saga, broadcast last week, because the process is ongoing.
“We did provide answers to specific questions which did not relate to the ongoing process,” she said. “The next step is for the city council and the relevant Government departments agreeing to a funding package which will then be put to the preferred bidder.
“It will be up to the bidder at that point to decide if they can deliver a sustainable event centre for the amount of public funding being made available. I feel that it is of paramount importance not to jeopardise the ongoing work on this project.”
She also assured councillors that the venue’s proposed operators, Live Nation, remain absolutely committed to the project. City councillors welcomed the update but criticised suggestions in the Prime Time report that they had been muzzled by party whips and told not to contribute to the report.
Lord Mayor Mick Finn said whips had been briefed on the status of the project but had only been asked not to share confidential information. Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary, who was lord mayor during the event centre sod-turning ceremony, said when he contacted Prime Time to comment, he was told the “programme was in the can”.