TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has defended the funding mechanism for the embattled events centre project after it emerged that part of the state funding would be given as a recoupable loan.
However, the venue may get a discount or exemption on future commercial rates payments as part of a last-ditch financial plan to save the project.
The state is to fund €30 million of the €75m development, with developers BAM and operators Live Nation paying the balance.
The state’s funding will be split with €9m coming from Cork City Council and €21m from the Exchequer after the Attorney General gave the go-ahead for an additional €10m in grant aid from the Department of Arts.
However, the City Council’s funding will now be made in the form of a loan in order to stick to the terms of the original tendering process, where €20m in state aid was offered.
Mr Coveney tried to quell fears that this was a sudden change that had blindsided partners involved and could threaten the project.
He said that it was always the intention that Cork City Council’s contribution would be repaid through rates discounts or another mechanism, and the deal that is currently being finalised would allow that to happen while protecting the project from any potential legal challenges.
He said that meetings between legal teams have taken place as recently as last Friday, and all parties are well aware of what’s going on.
“BAM is more than aware of what’s going on, and they’re working with Cork City Council and the Department of Arts to get this thing over the line.
“What’s required here is to put a package together, which requires legal advice.
“There have been lots of moments in this saga that have required legal advice to get clarification to find a way forward. This is an example of another one of those, but it’s not as big an obstacle as some of the other things we’ve overcome,” he said.
Mr Coveney said that the Attorney General’s advice is clear and needs to be observed in order to secure the future of the project.
“The last thing we want is for this project to go ahead and then be stalled by a legal challenge,” Mr Coveney told the Neil Prendeville Show on RedFM.
He said that the City Council has the right to determine how rates are levied and is seeking legal advice.
“The challenge now is for Cork City Council to restructure a loan system and a loan facility in a way that can be repaid over time — I suspect a long period — and that that is managed against what may have otherwise been rates.”