Dáil Éireann - Volume 477 - 08 April, 1997

Written Answers - National Conference Centre.

252. Mr. Lawlor asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the situation regarding the National Conference Centre in view of reports of the anticipated rejection by the EU of the Government's application for funding for the project; if he has an alternative location that he can place before the EU; if this can be done without jeopardising the EU funding; and if he will categorically restate his decision not to consider any application for the construction of a National Conference Centre which includes the provision of a gambling casino. [8701/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade: (Mr. E. Kenny): Following the failure of the open tendering competition to produce an acceptable private sector proposal to develop the centre the independent management board—Bord Fáilte Area—under whose aegis the competition was run recommended that the strategy be reviewed. They suggested as an alternative the possibility of developing the centre through a public sector option. As a result the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), as a voluntary body potentially eligible for consideration for the higher rate of European Regional Development Fund assistance normally reserved for public/similar bodies was invited to submit a proposal on this basis. A similar invitation subsequently issued to a public/private joint venture who failed to submit an initial application within a twice extended deadline. The Tourism OP requires that the conference centre be located in Dublin.

[439] Upon completion of their examination of the RDS proposal, Bord Fáilte, on the recommendation of the management board, commissioned an independent cost/benefit analysis which is required under the Tourism OP in the case of all large projects. This was undertaken by an experienced UK consultancy firm who were selected by Bord Fáilte on the basis of a competitive tendering procedure. The results were favourable to the RDS proposal.

The Government, having taken into account a number of factors including the recommendations of the management board and Bord Fáilte and the results of the cost benefit analysis agreed on 5 November last to make a submission to the European Commission as required under the OP for projects of this scale recommending formal approval of the proposed development by the RDS on the basis of 75 per cent capital grant aid. The Commission is still considering the submission and has yet to reach a final decision on the proposal. In the meantime, the question of considering an alternative location does not, therefore, arise.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has recently communicated details of a complaint lodged with them on the subject of the selection procedures. I am currently finalising my reply and expect to have it with the Commission shortly.

Finally, the Government at present has no plans to introduce legislation for casino gambling, a position which was reconfirmed when the issue was most recently considered last June.