Monday 24 October 2016

Politicians and hotels in blame game over Web Summit move to Lisbon

Actress Eva Longoria at last year's Web Summit
Actress Eva Longoria at last year's Web Summit
Founder Paddy Cosgrave

A blame game was underway last night after Dublin lost the prestigious Web Summit to Lisbon.

Politicians and hoteliers were in the firing line as city businesses counted the cost of the organisers’ decision to leave the city where the movement was founded.

More than 30,000 people will attend the Web Summit in the RDS next November, but it will be the final event in Dublin for at least three years.

Problems with infrastructure have been blamed for the decision, while hotels were also criticised for hiking prices during the event. During its five years in Dublin the summit suffered a number of glitches.


In 2013, a water shortage in the capital caused huge problems for visitors, and broadband capabilities have been a repeated issue. Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he was “sorry” the summit was moving but added that he didn’t feel the financial loss would badly affect the capital.

“Dublin is chock-a-block with business at present, the hotels are full nearly every week now, so although people would be disappointed, I think there is still [enough] alternative business but I would like if it came back again,” he said.

READ MORE: State gave €600k in support but city 'took in €37.5m'

However, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, who estimate the summit is worth €100m to the city, said it should be a “wake-up call” for the Government.

“Hosting Web Summit has been a huge feather in the cap for Dublin,” chamber chief executive Gina Quinn said.

“This year will see around 90pc of the 30,000 attendees coming from overseas. Web Summit is now Europe’s biggest tech conference and for a whole week, the eyes of the tech world are on Dublin,” she said.

“The decision to leave Dublin should serve as a wake-up call to the Government about the importance of increasing investment in infrastructure.

“It’s also a reminder of how Dublin is competing with other international cities for business,” added Ms Quinn.

She noted that Dublin will spend €150m on infrastructure this year, which on a per capita basis, is more than half of what Manchester and London spend.

“As the Web Summit news proves, at some point this significant under-investment will come home to roost, with Dublin and Ireland missing out on investments and jobs,” she said.

Her views seemed to be backed up by Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave who said that the summit needed “a new home for future growth”.

“We’re excited to move but also saddened about leaving Dublin,” he said. “I have nothing but ‘thank you’s’ to many people here after five years in Dublin. The start-up community in Dublin, in particular, couldn’t have been more supportive.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the loss of the “internationally-renowned web summit is a hugely embarrassing development for the city and the country”.

He said it was a “major development” and required action from the Government to create a sufficient technology infrastructure. Mr Martin asked whether the Government could have done more to salvage the situation by acting faster.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton said that the summit had “become an international success” and as a result the move was “a natural step, the next chapter” in its growth.


“The summit is a great success and this does not in any way alter the strong start-up environment that we have in Dublin, which is something that we have nurtured and has grown from strength to strength.

“I wish Paddy Cosgrave and the company well. It has been a successful undertaking and has put an Irish company on the map,” he said.

Speaking at the Ploughing Championships in Laois, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “It’s disappointing to find that they’ve made a decision to move for the next three years, but that’s a choice that they’ve got to make.”

Mr Kenny said he had spoken  with Mr Cosgrave about the Web Summit’s needs but ultimately the decision was made and “Ireland is moving on”.

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