Business Web Summit

Sunday 11 December 2016

Give us back the €700,000 'hush money', minister tells Web Summit organisers

Adrian Weckler and Kevin Doyle

Published 04/11/2015 | 02:30

Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder of the Web Summit, on the opening day at the RDS. Photo: Frank McGrath
Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder of the Web Summit, on the opening day at the RDS. Photo: Frank McGrath
Russian philanthropist Natalia Vodianova speaks at the summit

More than €700,000 paid to the Web Summit by the State should be "given back" if its co-founder Paddy Cosgrave considers it nothing more than "hush money", a government minister has said.

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Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash has hit out at claims by Mr Cosgrave that payments to the event from the IDA and Enterprise Ireland were supplied so the organisers would "lavish the Government in praise".

"What we received over a four-year period, in my eyes, amounts to nothing more than hush money," Mr Cosgrave said in a radio interview yesterday.

"The way it's being spun and the lies that have been told by the Government", he said, were also being used as a "useful and practical distraction" from "real" issues such as healthcare and housing.

However, Mr Nash responded to the statements by asking for the money back so that it can be used to help start-up companies.

"It's a considerable sum of money and if Paddy Cosgrave considers that hush money, I'm sure the State would be happy to take that back and invest it in small start-ups that could do with the additional supports," he said.

Mr Nash said that despite being a minister in the Department of Jobs for two Web Summits, he has never received an invitation to the event.

"I don't take that personally. I'm as busy as Paddy Cosgrave is," he said.

Mr Cosgrave had said that other European governments, from France to Kosovo, had organised their own Web Summit itineraries without receiving specific invitations.

"They're doing the work they were elected to do," he said.

However, Mr Nash said that the Government was committed to job creation.

"We're all interest in creating jobs," he said. "We obviously welcome the work the Web Summit has done down in Dublin in terms of putting Ireland on the map over the last few years.

"But our story is a bigger one than simply the Web Summit."

There has been acrimony between the Government and the Web Summit since Mr Cosgrave announced that the conference was relocating to Lisbon from Dublin in 2016.

In email correspondence released between the Web Summit and the Taoiseach's office, Mr Cosgrave said sub-standard infrastructure and poor planning in Dublin were the reason he was taking Europe's largest digital technology conference away.

He also accused Government ministers of treating the event as a photo-opportunity excuse while rival governments sent ministers "to do business here".

However, Mr Nash said that the Government recently hosted a start-up gathering a few weeks ago, which was "a phenomenal success".

Ambition

"It's our ambition that Ireland will become a hub for start-ups by 2020."

He said the Department of Jobs had made contact with the Web Summit organisers to "see how we could support but got no response whatsoever".

"I genuinely wish the Web Summit well and that at some stage they might consider moving the Web Summit event back to Ireland," the minister said.

While the issue dominated political coverage of the event during the day, most eyes at the event were focused on speeches by Dell founder Michael Dell, Ford chairman Bill Ford, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and a host of senior technology industry figures.

Meanwhile, the day's largest business announcement came from Irish online entrepreneur Oisin Hanrahan, whose three-year-old online cleaning and home services company, Handy.com, has raised $50m in new funding. The finance puts his company's valuation at an impressive $500m.

Handy.com puts cleaners, plumbers and handymen in touch with ordinary people who need "odd jobs" done around their homes.

Hanrahan, from Rathcoole, dropped out of Harvard to start the company in 2012 in the US.

The Web Summit says that 42,000 people will visit the event this year, including 1,000 investors, 1,200 press and 2,100 start-ups.

Irish Independent

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