Written Answers. - Proposed Conference Centre.

Eoin Ryan

Question:

567 Mr. E. Ryan asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the current position in relation to the proposed conference centre at the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. [16793/96]

Following the failure of the open tendering competition to produce an acceptable private sector proposal, I have been pursuing since January last, as recommended by the independent product development management board, an alternative strategy for a major international conference centre under the current tourism operational programme or OP, 1994-99. In accordance with this strategy, Bord Fáilte, under the aegis of the aforementioned product board, has been examining an outline proposal from the Royal Dublin Society which, as a voluntary body, is potentially eligible for consideration for a higher rate of capital assistance normally reserved under the OP for public and similar bodies. The RDS has been advisedinter alia that its proposed centre would have to operate without annual operating subsidy from the State or revenue from casino gaming.

The possibility of a second proposal, involving a public-private joint venture, was also explored during the year but the promoters were not in a position to submit the necessary outline details within deadlines set to allow assessment of suitability for inclusion in the alternative strategy.

Bord Fáilte and the product board have now completed their examination of the RDS proposal and have recommended a separate independent cost-benefit analysis. This analysis is being undertaken by an experienced UK consultancy firm, selected by Bord Fáilte on the basis of a competitive tendering procedure, which is expected to report next month. Once available, I will consider their findings, along with those of the product board, with a view to referring the RDS proposal, if appropriate, for decision by Government as a possible submission to the European Commission which must individually approve major projects of this magnitude under the OP.