Sunday 21 January 2018

Web Summit received more than €725,000 in financial support - Taoiseach's office

Web summit founder Paddy Cosgrave
Web summit founder Paddy Cosgrave

Philip Ryan and Adrian Weckler

THE Taoiseach’s office has revealed the Web Summit received more than €725,000 in State support in response to the publication of critical emails sent by the event’s organiser Paddy Cosgrave to Enda Kenny’s officials.

In the published correspondence, Mr Cosgrave claimed he was forced to move his technology seminar to Lisbon this year because the Government could not address concerns he had about holding event in Dublin.

Mr Cosgrave said he “didn’t want a penny” from the Government but rather wanted issues around hotel costs, Wi-Fi and traffic disruption addressed by the Government.

In response, the Taoiseach’s Office published details of the amount of State funding Mr Cosgrave’s event received from state agencies Enterprise Ireland and Industrial Development Authority (IDA).

The €725,000 figure quoted by the government is the culmination of fees paid by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland to the Web Summit over a three year period. The figures were previously published as a result of a Freedom Of Information request a year ago by another web conference organiser, Damien Mulley.

However, both Mr Cosgrave and other Web Summit founders flatly denied that the organisation had ever received any financial aid from the government. He said any expenditure made by state bodies was in exchange for commercial exhibition space or events “at or below market rates”.

“We have never sought a single grant or subsidy,” wrote Cosgrave in correspondence with the Department of the Taoiseach. “Nor have we received one. Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and others have only ever paid to exhibit or host dinners, just as other governments including Britain, Austria, Israel, France, Belgium and Portugal during Web Summit.”

A spokesman for the Web Summit said that the organisation had received €871,144 since the foundation of the event.

“We have received no direct state funding whatsoever,” he said. “Furthermore, we haven’t taken any subsidy available to us.”

A spokesman for the government declined to comment any further on the nature of financial transactions between state bodies and the Web Summit.

A senior Government source last night also questioned when Mr Cosgrove decided to move the event.

“Paddy had been publicly making comments to the effect he was moving the Web Summit somewhere else for a couple of years and did a tour of several cities including Lisbon,” the source said.

“One wonders when that decision was actually taken to move,” the source said

“An awful lot of people went to great lengths to facilitate the Web Summit and it seems Paddy made the decision to move,” the source added.

“Ultimately, this is a commercial decision and the issues [which have been pointed out] by Paddy could have been resolved.”

The senior official also suggested Mr Cosgrave published a small section of correspondences which are soon to be released under the Freedom of Information Act to media outlets.

In a statement, from the Department of the Taoiseach it was also stated that the correspondence are a “selection of rather than a full account” of the contacts between the Web Summit and the Government.

“The Government and its Agencies have been happy to support the web summit and help it grow in scale each year. We wish Paddy and the team every success with the move to Lisbon and look forward to providing assistance with any events they may wish to host in the future,” it stated.

“Regarding the documents released today they are a selection of rather than a full account of contact between the summit and Government and its agencies.

In relation to specific supports provided to Web Summit in the past, please see below information provided by IDA and Enterprise Ireland in response to FOIs. Significant financial and non-financial support has also been provided by other Agencies including Fáilte Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, Dublin City Council, Bord Bia, Culture Ireland.”

Mr Cosgrave did not responded with a comment at time of publication.

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