On 30 January of this year, the executive chairperson of Sports Campus Ireland, Mr. Paddy Teahon, wrote to the chairperson of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy Breda Moynihan-Cronin, to apologise to her for misleading the Committee on 14 September 2000 concerning the cost of the national stadium. Mr. Teahon went on to say that his incorrect figures were "subsequently reflected in briefing material used by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation when replying to Parliamentary Questions in the Dáil."
It is quite remarkable that Mr. Teahon misled the committee on September 14 last, and subsequently the Taoiseach and the Minister, but did not discover his error until it was highlighted in the "Prime Time" programme two weeks ago. Anyone can make a mistake, but it is remarkable that Mr. Teahon's memory of an event which occurred on 14 September was only triggered following the "Prime Time" programme. The erroneous figure has been repeated in countless print media and yet Mr. Teahon, whose principal focus is supposed to be the stadium project, did not ever query the origins of the figure nor sought to correct it. When it was used and relied on by Members on both sides of the House on several occasions, there was still no correction forthcoming. When Mr. Teahon and his colleagues met the Labour Party leader, Deputy Quinn, myself and other colleagues on 26 October 2000 – some nine days after the exchanges in the House – he made no attempt to correct the figure. However, when "Prime Time" showed a video recording of the Taoiseach misleading the House at Question Time on 17 October, Mr. Teahon suddenly discovered that he was the author of the incorrect figures.
Frankly, it beggars belief that not just the Opposition but the Taoiseach and the responsible Minister were allowed to proceed on an artificial figure based on an error of no less than £51 million. The kindest conclusion to which one can come is that nobody cares how much this project costs the taxpayer. It does not seem to matter how many noughts are added to the bottom line. The Taoiseach wants his vanity project and he will get it. Is it not remarkable that neither the Minister responsible, the Taoiseach who is promoting the project or the management charged with delivering it noticed an error of £51 million in the costings?
This raises questions about the reliance that can be placed on the remainder of the figures relating to this project. We now know from the data secured under the Freedom of Information Act that the alarming cost of clearing the park has escalated from £90 million to £160 million. Can Members imagine anyone entering the House a number of years ago with a proposal to clear the park at such a cost? In the article inThe Irish Times Mr. Teahon referred to the BSE situation being so serious that this would be warranted in any event. I do not believe anyone would seriously buy into that.
In the same article inThe Irish Times on 29 January, in setting up an escape hatch for the Taoiseach who had misled the House, Mr. Teahon calmly records that “the Stadium cost (£230 million) had not changed, but the campus cost had.” He proceeds to say that the “initial guideline cost of £51 million for a Stadium of sporting excellence” had now become “a sound estimate of the cost of the campus is £320 million.” Just like that. We were given an explanation as to how £281 million became £230 million and now we have been provided with an explanation to show how £51 million became £320 million. The cost of the stadium will remain at £230 million – although we have empirical evidence to the contrary – while the cost of the campus has risen from £51 million to £320 million. Add in the cost of clearing the site at £160 million and the total cost has already reached £710 million.
The flat percentage rate system payable under the contract to the interests associated with delivering the project means that the higher that figure goes, the larger the amount of money those interests will extract from it. In addition to the £50 million supposedly committed by the J. P. McManus syndicate, Mr. Teahon hopes "the private sector will be prepared to invest £150 million in the project, mostly for commercial facilities." However, we have just seen the FAI being forced into partnership talks with the private sector because it could not stack up the economics due to the fact that some members of its board were not prepared to proceed on the basis of promises from the corporate sector. What is the status of the promise that a further £150 million will be forthcoming from the private sector for Abbotstown?
All of this and no anchor tenant. The Comptroller and Auditor General in France has just completed a study on the fiasco associated with the construction of theStade de France for the World Cup. The problem that arose in France was that after the World Cup there was no anchor tenant for the stadium. Paris St. Germain refused to take up occupancy of this 80,000 seater stadium and there is now available on the Internet a report by the French Comptroller and Auditor General about this debacle, which arose as a result of the fact that there was no anchor tenant to finance the ongoing operations of the stadium.
I appreciate that the Taoiseach's men believe that they will ultimately be able to make the FAI an offer it cannot refuse. However, what if the FAI proceeds on a joint venture basis with Eir com Park? Even if it does not, do we have to spend the sports budget for the next ten years on the "Bertie Bowl"? We already have an 80,000 seater Stadium at Croke Park, towards the cost of which the Exchequer has made some contribution. The FAI wants to build its own stadium possibly necessarily in partnership with the private sector. Lansdowne Road remains an ideally located ground. If we need another stadium, we most certainly do not need two. There simply are not enough events to pay the bills.
Meanwhile, the sports infrastructure throughout the country, desperately needs investment. Voluntary activists are struggling to raise money and provide what are often basic facilities for all kinds of sporting clubs. A fraction of this money could transform sporting endeavour in local communities.
Initially I supported this project. I thought it was a good idea to build such a stadium. At that time the £50 million supposedly committed by J.P. McManus was a generous gift from someone who spent most of his life avoiding paying tax here. However, we will not look a gift horse in the mouth. That £50 million was a major proportion of the cost at the time but it would not buy the perimeter fence now.
The cost of this project has escalated beyond belief and will starve the ability to put money into ordinary clubs up and down the country for the next ten years. The most important point of all is that, while we will be able to sign the cheque, how are we going to run the stadium? From where will the events come?
It seems rational that if we must have another stadium it ought to be more comparable in cost to the stadia built across the West in recent years. In an article inThe Irish Times I set out a table detailing the costs from Munich to Dublin over the past number of years. Deputy O'Shea drew attention to the American study which showed an average overrun of 73.4% on 15 stadia recently built in the US. I cannot see how Mr. Teahon can claim the cost will remain static.