Ireland is unable to secure a venue for its much-anticipated ‘Ireland House’ despite the London Olympics being less than 200 days away.
The Irish Post can exclusively reveal that the Olympic Council of Ireland’s progress in locating a site to host Ireland’s hospitality house for fans and supporters is now moving slower than ever.
A lack of finance and sponsorship for the venue has been suggested as part of the hold-up and the previously proposed Roundhouse venue in Camden is now thought to be out of the running.
Responding to our request for information regarding the House, an OCI spokesperson admitted: “Things are moving much slower on the Irish House project, so we will not have any solid news for some time yet.”
Their embarrassing climb-down comes two months after OCI President Pat Hickey promised a decision on the venue would be confirmed before Christmas.
At an Olympics reception held at the Irish Embassy in London last November 14, Mr Hickey informed a vast gathering – including London 2012 Chairman Seb Coe – that Ireland’s preferred option The Roundhouse was to be confirmed as their venue in December.
Irish community members and businesspeople spoke of their disappointment this week that the Irish House project has seemingly gone back to stage one.
Andy Rogers is Chair of the LOCOG Irish Community group which represents the interests of the Irish community in Britain to the Olympics organising committee.
He said: “The provision of an ‘Ireland House’ where supporters of the Irish Team can meet, drink, eat and enjoy our culture has been a well-established part of both summer and winter Olympics.
“The Irish Community in Britain has been looking forward to hearing details about our Ireland House for London, but it has not been easy to find out what is going on and with only 200 days to go, time is running tight on ensuring Ireland and Irish people from all over the world will have a central hospitality venue in London that we can all be proud of.”
He added: “The Olympic Council of Ireland had promised an announcement some months ago. By now, most of the major competing countries have sourced iconic locations across London to host their national houses.”
As one of the final nations to find a venue for their national house in the capital, Ireland is left with far less choice than their forward-thinking counterparts.
Early options were nabbed by the likes of France, who will take over Old Billingsgate Market, and Brazil, who snapped up Somerset House for their ‘Casa Brasil’ Olympics party, while the games take place in May.
Jennie McShannon, Chief Executive of the Federation of Irish Societies, claims the delay in Ireland’s decision unfairly affects Irish organisations and business people who may find opportunities in the venture.
“The uncertainty around the Irish house is disappointing,” she said. “While difficulties in getting a company to sponsor an Irish house at such a fraught economic time in Ireland is understandable, the lateness of this decision makes it difficult for the community, and cultural organisations as well as London-based Irish companies to link up with the house and see what opportunities there are for partnership in regard to cultural acts and events, community links, volunteering etc.”
David Barlow is Director of The London Irish Centre in Camden. He claims the OCI’s failure to confirm the Roundhouse venue has dealt a blow to Camden’s Irish community.
“We know there have been delays in making decisions about the Ireland House but we really need to find out sooner rather than later,” he told The Irish Post. “In fact it is later now – so we need to find out as soon as possible.”
He edded: “When the Roundhouse news came it was a great boost to the area, people really wanted it to come here and we believe Camden, with its dense Irish population, is the ideal host for the Irish Olympics House.”
He added: “As the main London-wide Irish centre we certainly have been working to put together a package of events around the Olympics. We need to find out as soon a possible where the house is going to be located, as we have put our own plans on hold until the decision is announced.
“If it will be located here in Camden then we can put a programme together that ties in with and compliments it. If it’s not that will really scupper our plans and it would obviously be very disappointing for everyone in the borough.”
The Roundhouse venue was unavailable for comment.
For more on this story see this week’s Irish Post, out Wednesday, January 18.
National Olympics Houses already confirmed:
Africa House – Kensington Gardens
Brazil House (Casa Brasil) – Somerset House
Czech House – Business Design Centre
England House – Westfield Stratford City
France House – Old Billingsgate Market
Germany House – Museum of London Docklands
Holland House – Alexandra Palace
Italy House – Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre
Jamaica Village – Finsbury Park
Nigerian House – Stratford Theatre Royal