Ice firm fiasco

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

ORGANISERS of the Newry on Ice event were behind a similar failed business venture that was over a million euros in debt when it went into liquidation, writes Roisin Sweeney.
Philip Gaffney is the registered director of IceSkateCity Ltd, which ran Newry on Ice, while Mark Bowes was named as a director of the event on the Newry On Ice facebook page.
The Democrat can reveal both men were behind Irish Ice Ventures which went into liquidation in 2010 owing €1,078,244, while Mark Bowes was also behind the National Ice Arena Santry which opened in May 2012 and closed just six months later.
When previously asked what background checks the Council carried out before supporting the event, Director of Administration, Eddy Curtis, said: "Council checked Companies House register which declared that IceSkateCity was solvent."
Mr Curtis also said that the Council's legal team issued a license for the hire of the Albert Basin which contained checks and balances to minimise risks to the Council.
However Companies House confirmed they do not keep records as to whether companies are solvent as it is not a legal requirement. They also confirmed that IceSkateCity Ltd was incorporated on October 7 last year - the same day the Council backed the event during its monthly meeting.
The organisers of the event left Newry after not paying thousands of pounds in wages to its staff - most of whom are students.
The event, which was situated at Albert Basin, has been dogged by controversy. It was due to begin on December 7 but remain closed for the first 48 hours, with weather conditions being blamed.
When the gates finally opened, customers took to the Newry on Ice facebook page to complain about overpriced tickets and a lack of attractions - such as the Big Wheel, which never materialised despite being advertised.
In a statement the Council said: "In December 2013, Newry & Mourne District Council entered into a short term arrangement with IceSkateCity Limited allowing that company to occupy Council lands at Albert Basin for a period of six weeks for the purpose of presenting 'Newry on Ice'.
“This was designed to invigorate the Albert Basin part of town over the Christmas period for the benefit of Newry & Mourne and visitors to the area. No agreement was entered into with any individual directors of that company and no Council monies were expended or committed to the venture. The Council did tidy the Albert Basin site but this is done in advance of any event.
“The Council has not been approached by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment about any concerns it has with IceSkateCity Limited or any directors of that company.
“The Council will of course provide any assistance it can to the Department if the Department at any time considers the activities of this company or its directors require investigation."
• See page 10.

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