I am not sure if the Minister is familiar with the background to this issue. I have raised it consistently in the Seanad over the past year. There is no need for me to make the case for the Cork School of Music. It has been well made and the case was accepted by the Government inasmuch as it entered into a public private partnership process to secure the construction of a new school. Unfortunately, that has not happened.
There is growing frustration in Cork about this, mainly because the city successfully bid to be designated European capital of culture in 2005. Winning the bid was a great reflection on the people of Cork and of this country. However, the bid hinged on the construction of the flagship new school of music. We have been let down. The school has not been built and it is unlikely to be built. Even if it is given the go ahead in the next couple of weeks, we will be lucky to see it completed by 2005. Not only is this a potential embarrassment for the people of Cork, it is also a potential embarrassment for the Government and the country. We have let the side down with regard to this bid.
I have received a number of different answers when I have raised this issue. I hope the Minister will be able to clarify a number of points this evening. We are told by the Government that there is a difficulty with EUROSTAT. The problem is that EUROSTAT claims it has not been consulted on the matter and it has put that claim in writing. I believe the other problem relates to an interpretation of EUROSTAT's ruling by the CSO. The Taoiseach said in Cork last Thursday that he was doing everything possible about this issue but he then went on to repeat the EUROSTAT opinion or interpretation. Will the Minister write to EUROSTAT and ask for its interpretation? The Minister should then make the correspondence public so we will know, once and for all, whether EUROSTAT has a problem with it or if it is an internal problem in this country.
Much as I hate to say it, I believe it is an internal problem. There seems to be a blockage in the Department of Finance even though that should not be the case, given that the Department was represented in the processing of the public private partnership and in the tendering process. If there were problems or difficulties, they should have been highlighted then. We should not have reached the stage of selecting a preferred bidder and then not placing the contract.
There is also a serious industrial relations problem looming and it will be upon us next September. The staff and students vacated the school of music 18 months ago to facilitate its demolition and the construction of the new school. They are in temporary accommodation in hotel rooms and other venues, which causes huge health and safety issues. The students and staff have had tremendous patience but I cannot see that continuing into next September. There is a window of opportunity in the next couple of weeks to remove this blockage and do what is right. We must honour the case that was made and, more importantly, ensure this country is not let down in the eyes of our European colleagues in 2005. Otherwise, it will be an eternal embarrassment for us.
I apologise if I sound frustrated but the Cathaoirleach and other Senators are aware that I have been raising this issue for 12 months. I am only reflecting the frustration of the people of Cork about it.