June 6: Ardmore deal to give region a ‘new industry’

EXCITEMENT has greeted news that a touch of Hollywood magic could be coming to Limerick through the local authority’s purchase of a major warehousing space and a potential hook-up with Ardmore Studios.

EXCITEMENT has greeted news that a touch of Hollywood magic could be coming to Limerick through the local authority’s purchase of a major warehousing space and a potential hook-up with Ardmore Studios.

The deal, expected to be finalised soon, would see the Wicklow based studio lease the 350,000 sqaure foot former Dell building - known as the Culture Factory last year - with a view to purchasing it in time. The studio, which has said it has turned away business because of a lack of suitable studio space in Ireland, will bring television and film production to the space, which previous owner PJ Noonan was keen to see used to provide employment in the region.

An €120m Hollywood film is waiting in the wings for the deal to wrap to start filming, while advantageous tax breaks and a good location for the factory - near a major airport, but not located underneath a flight path - plus the fact that such a building does not exist anywhere else in the country, mean that Limerick is set to reap the rewards of the development, establishing a “major international media hub” - in the words of city and county chief executive Conn Murray, who has worked since July 2014 on the deal.

However, certain industry players have criticised the decision to use State funds to purchase the factory, while these same “industry practitioners” have claimed that Ireland would struggle to provide enough crew members for a third major production house - beyond Ardmore and Ashford, both of which are located in Wicklow. The suggestion is that the proposed studio would be “too far” from the country’s crew base in Dublin. This is simply waffle in the extreme.

Ardmore - the industry experts - are keen on the deal and a business case has been produced to support that view, while the plans are thought likely to help create upwards of 700 jobs in the area, which key officials have pointed out will give us a new type of industry, and different types of jobs that Limerick may not have had before in the past, while welcoming home creative graduates that are forced to seek employment elsewhere.

The studio plans are seen as a logical legacy of City of Culture and, in the words of LIT lecturer Simon McGuire, would be “massive and would put Limerick and the Mid-West on the map”.