Thursday 27 October 2016

Taoiseach's office had 'no appetite' for Web Summit blasts founder of tech event

Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave
Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave

The Taoiseach has dismissed Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave's claim that the government was "disorganised and uncoordinated" in its approach to the Web Summit.

The Web Summit announced that it would move the massive fair to Lisbon in 2016 in September.

Now a series of emails between the technology event organisers and the Department of the Taoiseach claim to show a lack of interest on the part of the Government in the event.

According to the correspondence, the Web Summit requested four specific issues: traffic, public transport, hotels and wifi.

The Web Summit wanted the Government and State bodies, such as Dublin City Council and An Garda Siochana, to put in place traffic management plans "similar to that for soccer and rugby matches" or they would move to another European city.

"We need a plan for Dublin City, we don't want a penny," wrote Mr Cosgrave in late September.

"Even an indicative plan and we would stay. But after three years of asking and asking, we still don't even have one single page outlining even a basic committed plan for the city.

"What little is being done for this year is disorganised, uncoordinated and in many instances not guided by evidence."

Mr Cosgrave claimed that the city "came to a standstill" during the event in 2015, "in particular all roads leading to and from the RDS. "Ten thousand attendees ended up having to walk back to their hotels".

Mr Cosgrave also criticised Dublin hotels' "gouging" of visitors by "up to 600pc" and said that the cost of wifi would rise to over €1m "when it's free and reliable in other cities".

In response, officials in the Department of the Taoiseach offered to convene meetings where "mechanisms" and "engagement" could be explored.

"A high-level taskforce will oversee and coordinate arrangements for engagement, with subgroups and mechanisms as needed for different strands such as logistics, and engagement with attendees," said a document sent by John Callinan, assistant secretary general in the Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr Callinan also said that extra buses and signage would be provided for this year's event.

And he said that "financial support" from Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland existed through the booking of exhibition space at the Web Summit.

But Mr Cosgrave said that the Web Summit had never requested any financial help.

"At present, for whatever reason, there is no appetite for real political engagement," he said.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said last night that the company's decision to switch to Lisbon in Portugal was a "commercial" one.

"I expect that [their] vacuum will be filled by others in a relatively short time," he said.

"I spoke to Paddy [Cosgrave] myself when he was in Portugal, saying we would offer every assistance we can, in terms of what the Government could do.

"It wasn't the Government writing a cheque here, but being very supportive along the line," Mr Kenny said.

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