By Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent
The ongoing “scandal” of the abandoned hostel project in Tipperary town was raised in the Dáil by Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath. He said he understood Pobal, FÁS and the Garda Síochána are conducting investigations, but this has been going on for three and a half years.
“I was informed on 27 September, eight months ago, that we could expect some results soon,” he said. “At the time, we were promised the FÁS report by April 2013, but now we have been told it will not be available until the summer. This beggars belief in a modern-day democracy with accountability.”
This was a fantastic project which was the brainchild of and organised by a committee, he said. Exemplary work had been carried out by FÁS participants under a community initiative scheme in Tipperary town. Tremendous work was carried out and this project was nine tenths finished. Unfortunately, greed or whatever got involved and questions were raised over moneys.
“These are not my words but the words of an official from FÁS, whose report stated that an estimated €150,000 in grant money was ‘incorrectly drawn down’,” he said. “That was the phrase used. ‘Incorrectly drawn down’ could mean many things. I have seen cases throughout the country where small sums of money have been misappropriated. I have seen former Members of the House being arrested and hauled into court for small sums of money, perhaps only several hundred euro, and rightly so if there was any wrongdoing. However, it is remarkable that a case of misappropriation of funding to the tune of €150,000 could drag on for three and a half years. I raised this with Ministers in the previous Government who were carrying out investigations.”
He said he held a meeting recently with Councillor Mary Hanna Hourigan and Maurice Crotty, two concerned people. “I salute the bravery of Councillor Hourigan in raising this several times in spite of being told to leave it alone because it was not something to be talked about. She raised the matter with Chief Superintendent Keogh of the Thurles district. Thankfully, she has reinvigorated and reinitiated the Garda investigation. I thank and salute her. I hope we get to the bottom of this. I compliment the officers who have been appointed. I have great faith and trust in them.”
In reply, Minister of State Ciaran Cannon said the Tipperary hostel project, under the then FÁS jobs initiative programme, was involved in the transformation of a Famine-era workhouse in Tipperary town into self-catering accommodation for tourists. This was overseen by a development company, Tipperary Hostel Limited. The company was primarily funded through Pobal, a not-for-profit organisation that manages funding programmes on behalf of the Government, with a manpower element provided by FÁS through the jobs initiative programme.
“In June 2010 as a result of findings from an audit report into the project, FÁS decided to discontinue funding to the jobs initiative at Tipperary hostel,” he said. “An investigation is ongoing into the findings of the audit report into the Tipperary hostel project. This investigation is expected to be completed by the end of June. It may be that the matter will then be referred to the gardaí. The Deputy will understand that I cannot comment or speculate on the possible findings or outcomes from these investigations at this time.”
Six investors visit Cashel plant - Minister
The availability of a modern state of the art plant at Cashel, the former Cordis facility, for foreign direct investment, must make the search easier, Independent Deputy Seamus Healy told the Dáil.
Speaking during Question Time, he said jobs are very badly needed in South Tipperary. “IDA Ireland produced only ten new jobs in South Tipperary last year,” he said. “Other plants in the county have seen significant job losses. The current unemployment statistics for the county are horrendous. In the town of Cashel, unemployment has increased from just under 400 in 2008 to 1,200 currently. The situation is the same in other towns around the county.”
In reply, Minister of State John Perry said he had been informed by IDA Ireland that in the period from January 2012 to date, five of the six site visits by potential investors to South Tipperary visited the vacant Cordis facility in Cashel. These visits were from new companies visiting the location and region for the first time and from senior executives of existing client companies.
“This is a fantastic facility in a cluster that is recognised for life sciences,” he said. “In South Tipperary alone, eight IDA client companies employ 3,500 people. It is important to emphasise that aspect. The fact that it is a fantastic cluster will enhance the opportunity to find an occupier for the facility as will the fact that 3,500 people are working in IDA companies in the region. This is about the promotion of the region which has a major regional advantage given the existence of the cluster.”
Minister Perry said the IDA is actively bringing people to see the facility, with five of the six companies having visited it. “The Minister, Deputy Bruton, is actively discussing the matter with the IDA every chance he gets,” he added. “There is a great opportunity here. The Minister sits on the south east forum and employment in the region is very much a critical focus of Government. I am very confident about this facility given the emphasis of the Government on the south east, the location of the life science cluster and the fact that 3,500 people are already employed in eight IDA client companies in the region.”
Landy highlights GAA event in Carrick
The erection in Carrick-on-Suir of a 9 ft monument to Maurice Davin, the first President of the GAA and the only president to serve two terms, was raised in the Seanad by Senator Denis Landy.
Speaking during a debate on the upcoming 1916 Centenary commemoration plans, he said the event planned for 1 June came about because local people from the three local hurling and football clubs, Carrick Davins, Carrick Swan and St. Mullins, along with other local people and assisted by the Chairman of the Tipperary County Board, Seán Nugent, came together, fund-raised and accessed grants available to people across the country to carry out such functions.
“The president of the GAA, Liam O’Neill, will be present for that event, as will many people in this Chamber,” he said. “There is an open invitation to it and we will commemorate in our own way our famous son, Maurice Davin, who founded the GAA in 1884 in Thurles with Cusack and who was world champion in athletics at the time. After winning the British championships in 1881 he was asked by one of his fellow competitors if he thought he was the best athlete in Ireland to which he responded, ‘Well, I’m definitely the best athlete in Britain after today’.”
Senator Landy said Davin founded the GAA because at that time athletics in this country was governed under British rules and he wanted to stamp our identity in his own way, which is the identity that became the GAA in which the Minister had great involvement over the years.
“It is an important moment but I raise that because it shows that people can commemorate history locally by their own actions in their own communities,” he said. “That is what this decade of commemoration should be about. As I pointed out earlier, history should be remembered by citizens. Senator (Susan) O’Keeffe made a valid point about the way history is written and subsequently read. It is important that local people should write the history of their own area as they know and understand it.”
This period is about the commemoration of 1913, 1916, the War of Independence and the Civil War but it is also about local issues, he added. “History is not solely about remembering war; it is about remembering events that happened, and events happen in local communities.”