THE developers behind the €350m Opera Centre have said the fact that Anglo Irish Bank has a 50 per cent share in the project is "irrelevant" as to whether it goes ahead.
A spokesperson for the company added that claims that the project may not get off the ground due to the financial backing of the troubled, nationalised bank is a "red herring."
It has emerged that Anglo Irish Bank acquired its stake in the venture on December 2007, with a view to selling it on to private clients, but that never happened.
The planning application is currently before An Bord Pleanala for a second time, and Regeneration Developments, the company behind the project, are hopeful of a positive outcome in June.
"Regeneration Developments want the project to go ahead and are continuing to work on it.
"They purchased the project from the original developers with a view to building it. It will be built if we get planning, get anchor tenants and other major tenants, and if a bank - it doesn't have to be an Irish bank - is prepared to fund the commercial developments," said a spokesperson for the company.
Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, said he was "quite perturbed" to learn of the bank's stake in the retail development, which is expected to be "Limerick's shopping mecca" pending planning permission.
"It's certainly a problem. I'd prefer if they didn't own the shares. It came as a complete surprise. I never knew they were so immersed in the property game, but I wouldn't despair completely," said Minister O'Dea.
He said the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan is expected to set up an interim National Assets Management Agency, prior to receiving full legislation, and they may become involved with the development in Limerick. "They will certainly try to make that workable. So there is light at the end of the tunnel," he added.
Minister O'Dea added that he hopes that project will get the go-ahead in the coming months. "It's a fabulous project and the place looks terrible at the moment. Dereliction is creeping in."
If the plans receive permission, the Mid-West's largest retail centre is expected to create 275 jobs during the construction phase and another 800 full and part time jobs will be created once the centre is open and trading.
A decision on the revised plans is expected next month, after Regeneration Developments submitted revised drawings for the project two weeks ago.
An exact decision date has not been confirmed by An Bord Pleanala, but
those involved in the project expect that it will be made in the summer months.