THE taxpayer could be hit with a further bill of over €100,000 in costs connected to Diarmuid Gavin's award-winning garden.
Cork City Council has already committed €300,000-plus in 'creation' costs, with Failte Ireland paying €1.7m towards the 'Sky Garden', which won a gold medal at last week's Chelsea Flower Show in London.
However, councillors now fear that transport, insurance and operating costs associated with relocating the garden will be at least €100,000 more than anticipated.
Last night, the council tried to defuse an embarrassing public row with the celebrity gardener who had accused them of being "rude" over their stance on project finances. One council official said it was "a storm in a teacup" and that payments could only be made by a public body when invoicing and auditing procedures were properly completed.
But Workers' Party councillor Ted Tynan said the council needed to clarify precisely how much the garden cost, and what the council would pay in transport, insurance and operating costs.
He also expressed disbelief that the garden -- including its 30-metre high floating 'pod' and crane -- may only open for three months each year.
"I love gardens and flowers and parks, but this is absolutely ridiculous. You'd put a hell of a lot of flower beds around the city for this kind of money. We should keep our feet on the ground not in the clouds with a sky garden'," Mr Tynan said
"There are 500 boarded-up council houses in Cork and 120 people with various disabilities waiting on home adaptations. But the funding to go to all this has been cut by central government," he added.
Last night, the council said support for the "iconic garden" was in line with the policy that led to the creation of successful visitor attractions in the city.
"This is part of a long-term policy to create a necklace of top tourist attractions that will bring people to Cork, get them to stay longer here and spend more money here," a council spokesman said.
The council also described its financial support for the garden -- which is just 17pc of the total project cost -- as an innovative use of money.
Failte Ireland insisted that the garden would generate significant tourism earnings.
Mr Gavin said he couldn't wait to see the garden installed; the council hopes to put it on temporary display at Emmet Place (near Cork Opera House) before moving it to a permanent site at Mardyke Walk.
Meanwhile, a company with links to the celebrity gardener posted a loss in its first year of trading. Accounts for Diarmuid Gavin Designs Ireland Limited, which lists the gardener as its secretary and director, show a deficit of €60,088.