Sunday 25 February 2018

Government asked Nama to identify potential sites for new movie studios

Limerick City and County Council bought former Dell plant
Limerick City and County Council bought former Dell plant

Paul O'Donoghue

Nama was asked to help come up with options for new movie studio space ahead of a high level meeting called by the Taoiseach in March, the Irish Independent has learned.

It is understood that Nama did not have a suitable property in its portfolio.

The Nama search came just months before Limerick City and County Council this week struck a deal to buy the giant former Dell factory in the city to convert into a movie facility.

The request to Nama, made in January, shows the shortage of movie production facilities is seen as a priority at the very highest levels of Government.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny put the lack of studio space on the agenda for a Cabinet committee meeting held in March, according to documents released under a Freedom of Information request.

This week Limerick City and County Council agreed to buy a 350,000 sq ft former Dell factory for €6m deal.

The local authority is now in talks to lease the facility to Ardmore Studios, Ireland's biggest film and television production company, with a view to creating a multi-million euro film production hub.

An email sent to Nama by an official at the Department of the Taoiseach on January 26 last, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that a report on the job creation potential of the sector was being prepared for the Cabinet committee meeting which had been requested by the Taoiseach.

"The Taoiseach has asked that the jobs potential of the film sector in Ireland be put on the agenda of the March meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Jobs," according to the email sent to Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh.

Nama was to contribute to an inter-departmental report on options to support the film industry. "This flows from commitments in the Action Plan for Jobs process to explore how to maximise the potential of the sector, if sufficient studio space existed," the official wrote.

Nama executives were told "the immediate priority should be options for near term delivery of additional studio space, including costed options to bring any identified premises to delivery".

The email was sent to Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh, who shared it with Nama chairman Frank Daly.

Mr Daly responded in an email on January 29, saying: "[the] main issue is have we suitable premises[?]," according to the files released. Nama consulted with senior officials at the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Arts and Heritage on the studio issue, but Nama did not have a suitable premises.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is known to be a strong supporter of the Limerick studio project, focused on the former Dell factory which the local authority acquired from local businessman PJ Noonan.

It is understood that Minister Noonan recently met several film producers, including one who had worked on the superhero blockbuster 'The Dark Knight', who were scouting locations for a new €130m science fiction movie entitled 'Inversion'.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said that the Minister was "happy to be involved in the project" if possible but added that it was likely that he had no direct role in the purchase of the former Dell factory.

He added that the Minister will look at expanding tax incentives for the film industry in next year's budget.

According to the Department of Arts and Heritage an inter-departmental group set up to examine increased development in the film sector has met on a number of occasions since January.

Irish Independent

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