Friday 20 September 2019

Web Summit: What the government offered us was nothing more than ‘hush money’ - Cosgrave

Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave
Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave

Michael Cogley and Jason O'Brien

THE co-founder of the Web Summit, Paddy Cosgrave, has claimed the funding offered by the Irish government to the tech conference was nothing more than ‘hush money’.

The Web Summit begins in the RDS today and Mr Cosgrave says that the way in which the controversy over the summit moving to Lisbon has developed has proven to be a convenient distraction from other negative stories in the media such as homelessness.

He also said that the event has got "too big" for Dublin, and that the organisers needed to find a bigger home.

“The way it has played out and the way it has been spun and the lies that have been told by the government, I think are just a useful and practical distraction from the day-to-day beating that they take at the hands of the Irish media,” Mr Cosgrave told RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland.

READ MORE: Live Blog: #WebSummit - All the news, views and buzz from Day One

“What we received over a four year period, in my eyes, amounts to nothing more than hush money. Essentially, we were supposed to accept this and then we were supposed to lavish the government in praise, which we did publicly for four years consistently and what we did behind the scenes was try and push them time and time again to realise this was an opportunity for Irish businesses and they did not take that opportunity.”

Mr Cosgrave added that the funding was ‘embarrassing’ and slated ministers for attending for the purpose of photo opportunities.

“Over the a great many years we were flagging the fact that we were receiving, what they rightly point out as taxpayers money, they gave us over three quarters of a million. Consistently year after year, we said that we were ultimately embarrassed that we were being given this money to pay for exhibition stands and that the state agencies responsible were doing absolutely so little to realise any return on investment.

“I have absolutely no record of a single Irish minister ever meeting a single high-level delegate. Last year the British government sent a minister here for two days. He didn’t look for photos beside Enterprise Ireland or the equivalent of IDA stands, instead he spent two days doing non-stop bi-lateral meetings,” Mr Cosgrave said.

This year Taoiseach Enda Kenny will not be attending the conference - citing the lateness of his invitation and his full schedule. However, Mr Cosgrave said that foreign ministers had made it their business to attend the event and that the Taoiseach had been invited in May when discussions began.

"He was invited in May and those discussions began in May and as everybody is perfectly aware they came to nothing. On Friday every single TD, senator, minister was issued with an invite."

This year's event is set to attract 42,000 delegates to Dublin over the three days, from some 134 countries.

Opening the event shortly after 9.20am, Mr Cosgrave said there will be double the number of delegates there was last year and said the biggest benefit to attendees would be the opportunity to network, which he described as "magical".

He also told a large crowd from Centre Stage that his girlfriend - the model Faye Dinsmore - had knitted the jumper he is wearing.

Read more: Ford boss dreams of the car giant's return to Ireland

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