Friday 18 October 2019

Time to scrap my €500,000 golden garden: Gavin

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

AN investigation into why a €500,000 award-winning garden is not on public display should be carried out as soon as possible, the chairman of the powerful Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said last night.

Fianna Fail's John McGuinness told the Irish Independent he was "keenly interested" to find out why so much public money had been spent to date on the controversial Sky Garden, designed by celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin, which has been in storage for months.

The garden, which won the gold medal at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show last summer, was inspired by the Hollywood blockbuster 'Avatar', and has as its centrepiece a bright pink pod suspended 82ft in the air from a crane.

It was planned to install it in Cork's Fitzgerald Park as a tourist attraction by the end of this year, but designer Mr Gavin said this weekend it should be scrapped and no more money spent on it.

Speaking on RTE radio, he criticised Cork City Council, which commissioned the project, for being slow to pay him, although he has been paid in full.

The spend to date on the project is €500,000, which includes Mr Gavin's fees and costs associated with the garden. His fee was almost €50,000.


But Failte Ireland had promised to spend another €1.2m financing construction of its permanent home.

Mr Gavin said he was "embarrassed" at the controversy.

"I think it is grossly irresponsible (to finish this project)," he said. "I think it needs to go to the Dail Public Accounts Committee. I'm embarrassed to be associated with it. I think we did a very good job and financially sustained it. We delivered over there. It was a great success (but) none of that matters.

"Accountability is hugely important but nobody cares. I think we were massively let down," he added.

Cork City Council could not be reached for comment yesterday on why the garden had not gone ahead as planned. But it insisted recently that the project was appropriately managed.

"Any suggestion otherwise is rejected outright," manager Tim Lucey said last month.

Last night, Mr McGuinness said the local government auditor, charged with monitoring spending by city and county councils, should launch a probe.

"It's something I'm keenly interested in because it's taxpayers' money," he said.

"The local government auditor should look at this and provide a report to the Department of Environment and then to the PAC. Only then can we answer the public concerns."

It is understood that Failte Ireland will seek an update from the council early in the new year on the project, and it could withdraw funding if progress is not made.

Irish Independent

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