THE chief executive of Cork City Council has dismissed suggestions that the event centre sod turning was a mistake, instead claiming that it has 'cemented' government support for the long-awaited development.
City chief Ann Doherty said that all parties are still 'at the table' and keen to see the project completed.
It is now 23 months since the sod was turned at the site of the proposed event centre.
Developer BAM has moved ahead with student apartments at the South Main St site but is awaiting the outcome of an application for further funding from central government before pressing ahead with the build of the convention centre itself.
Ms Doherty insisted that work is ongoing to ensure the project is completed.
"I am as frustrated as anyone else," she told the Evening Echo.
"But, we met last week with BAM and Live Nation, teasing through the fine detail."
She denied suggestions that the infamous sod-turning distorted expectations of how far along the project was.
"I think we were very clear about where the process at the time," she said.
"Without that event, you could argue that the risk of losing the central government funding could be higher. It really cemented the government funding.
"Live Nation and BAM are still at the table. Why would they be here if they didn't believe it was going to happen? They are still committed."
The City Manager refuted suggestions that the sod turning was a political stunt.
The move has been criticised by rival politicians on a local and national scale, as well as coming for heavy condemnation among local stakeholders, keen to see the project delivered.
Ms Doherty said that the sod-turning by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny was an important step in the process.
"I think we were very clear about where the process was at the time," she said.
"It has been used as a bit of a battering ram but I think it was important. It was a strong demonstration and commitment that central government was behind the project. If it had not happened, you could envision a situation where that may not be the case given that many of those involved then have since moved on."
Developer BAM is awaiting the decision of an application for further funds to press ahead with work on the convention centre itself.
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe has previously stated that this decision would be made as part of the preparation of the Capital Plan review, due for release by the end of next month, according to officials at his department.
The document was previously expected shortly after October's budget but has yet to be published.
Ms Doherty said, "For us, the Capital Plan is a key milestone. Our event centre and the public funding from government has to be in there and, importantly, the Tánaiste is keen to make sure that happens too."
Under the initial tendering for the event centre project, €20 million of local and national government funding was committed. After revisions to the design, Cork City Council were requested by the developer to seek an additional €18 million. Following legal consultations, the local authority applied for €10 million, indicating that any higher figures could trigger a re-tendering process.
The city chief stressed that those involved are still keen to see the project come to fruition. BAM has already invested significantly, purchasing the Beamish & Crawford site from Heineken and funding an archaeological dig.
No public money has been spent to date.
Ms Doherty said, "My job is to protect that public money and I am satisfied that can be accounted for. But, Live Nation and BAM are at the table still. Why would they be here if they didn't believe it was going to happen? They are still committed."