Court asked to deem Cork event centre contract award 'unlawful'; City Council rejects allegations

Court asked to deem Cork event centre contract award 'unlawful'; City Council rejects allegations
Artist impressions of the Event Centre as of 15/10/2019 and the bridges that give access. Pictures supplied by G-Net 3D www.gnet.ie.

A LEGAL row has erupted over the awarding of the contract to build the long-promised multi-million Cork event centre.

It is the latest obstacle to hit the delivery of the stalled 6,000-capacity entertainment venue, which had its sod turned before the 2016 general election — but which has yet to see a brick laid.

In the latest twist in the saga the owners of the Irish National Event Centre in Killarney, Co Kerry have gone to court seeking orders to suspend the decision of Cork City Council to award the contract to BAM Contractors Ltd.

It also wants an order declaring the decision of the Council was unlawful.

Central to the case is the €50million in public funds now to be ploughed into the project.

Cork City Council rejects all the allegations.

Mr Justice David Barniville admitted the case to the big business Commercial Court.

Gleneagle Hotel (Killarney)Ltd with offices at Mill Road, Killarney own and operate the Irish National Event Centre in Killarney. Gleneagle Hotel Ltd is seeking an order setting aside or permanently suspending the decision of Cork City Council, made known on January 3, 2020, to award the contract to BAM Contractors Ltd.

It also seeks a declaration that the Council’s decision to award the contract was unlawful and if necessary it requires an order directing Cork City Council to re advertise the contract.

It further seeks a declaration the City Council has acted contrary to general principles of European Law. All the claims are denied by Cork City Council.

In a statement to the court grounding the application, Gleneagle Hotel Ltd said for a number years the Council has been considering the construction of an event centre in Cork city. The Council, Gleneagle Hotel Ltd said, knew or ought to have known such an event centre would compete with their own event centre in Killarney.

Gleneagle said it would have been entitled to take part in the tender procedure as published by the Council in 2014 but based on the financial conditions published at the time, it did not take part.

Artist impressions of the Event Centre as of 15/10/2019 and the bridges that give access. Pictures supplied by G-Net 3D www.gnet.ie.
Artist impressions of the Event Centre as of 15/10/2019 and the bridges that give access. Pictures supplied by G-Net 3D www.gnet.ie.

Gleneagle further claims it is likely to incur damage from the operation of a rival event centre which it claims is subsidised out of public funds. It said it chose not to tender for the project in 2014 based on the information published by the Council but it claims the 2020 Notice allegedly reveals the Council has allegedly radically changed the parameters of the competition compared to those advertised in 2014.

In the 2014 Notice, it said the Council proposed to part fund the project with the expected value of the works to be between €25million and €40million and public funds were to be in the region of €14million.

In contrast, it says the 2020 Notice states the public funds would cover €50million of the project cost and the preferred bidders would supply a further €35million which would bring the total project cost to €85million.

The estimated €85 million cost of the project it says is more than twice the maximum amount estimated six years before.

The non-repayable contribution from public funds it says more than tripled to €50million. Gleneagle claims the possibility of the increasing public funds was not made known to it or other potential bidders in 2014 and it claims the possibility that the ownership of the proposed event centre would transfer to the operating entity was not mentioned.

The parameters of the competition as set out in the 2020 Notice it alleges are significantly different to those advertised six years earlier.

Gleneagle claims it has lost out on a commercial opportunity.

Gleneagle director, Patrick O’Donoghue said in 2014 the company considered taking part in the competition but decided not to do so since the financial terms offered were not sufficiently attractive. He said the commercial terms now being offered by the City Council are allegedly very different to those offered six years ago. He said he was at a loss to understand how the Council could claim the fundamental parameters of the procurement remain as advertised in 2014 given the significant increase in public funds now being offered and other changes that have been made.

The case will come back before the court in May.

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