Micheál Martin has said that should he become the next Taoiseach he is “very committed” to the event centre project, but has raised concerns about where the €50m Government funding is coming from.
Speaking on a canvass in Youghal with councillor James O’Connor yesterday, the Fianna Fáil leader hit out at the promises Fine Gael made on the future of the centre prior to the 2016 election.
“I’m very committed to the events centre,” he said. “I haven’t been briefed fully on the most recent development.
“Everyone is very brassed off in terms of what’s happened here, because before 2016 the sod was dug by Enda Kenny, Simon Coveney and everyone else, and everyone thought the construction would start in six months, and it never did.”
Since that election, the centre hasn’t moved forward, and Mr Martin has now said that he is not certain where the €50m grant will actually come from, and that he wants more information on it.
“I’m worried that the money may not have been provided in the estimates, because it certainly wasn’t flagged to us during the budget that there was €50m available for the events centre in Cork,” said Mr Martin.
He went on to explain why he wants the project to commence.
“Of course I am committed to it because it is very important to the city of Cork, its growth and development, and certainly it would be very important for the rejuvenation of the city centre which is under huge pressure, particularly the retail sector, and the hospitality sector would gain enormously,” he said.
The retail sector is also under threat in Youghal, where Mr Martin was canvassing, according to the businesswoman who runs Kay’s Flowers at Clarke’s.
The canvassers were welcomed with open arms by Kay Curtin, who said that her cousin Anthony had taught Micheál Martin at school.
“I hold him responsible for my life in politics,” Mr Martin said.
Kay went on to explain what she believes Youghal needs from the next Government: “Micheál, what we need are industries. We have nothing. We’re really struggling, it’s hard.
“I know we have the boardwalk, and we find it’s great, but in actual fact they’re just coming to the boardwalk and going away again to Cork.
“We do need help in the town.”
She highlighted the more than 40 vacant premises in the town.
“I count them because I do the windows for the derelict buildings,” she said. “We dress them just so they look good.
“It’s just to make the town look good.”
Plenty of passersby stopped to shake Micheál and James’ hands, and to wish them well, but the reception was not positive everywhere.
“There’s no chips for ye here lads,” was the comment from one man working in a local chipper, leading the pair to leave as quickly as they got there.
They were flanked by a significant number of canvassers on their rounds, which led one Sinn Féin supporter to ask: “Do you need any more bodyguards?” when they entered another establishment.
A trip to Supervalu saw Micheál posing with a Valentine’s teddy bear which was holding a heart with ‘kiss’ written across it.
“Could be the kiss of death,” one passer-by quipped.
Meanwhile, the Old Imperial Hotel provided Mr Martin with a pint of Beamish, but he declined to take a sip — not until Sunday.
Speaking outside the hotel, Mr Martin said he was confident his party will hold and could also gain seats across the Cork constituencies in the election.
When asked who he thought would lose out as a result, he was coy.
“I don’t want to be predicting who’ll lose out because I’m not going to give any candidate a boost in the old style of the ‘I’m in trouble’ kind of approach,” he laughed.