In May 1996, when An Bord Pleanala gave the go-ahead to the Sonas Consortium building a casino in the Phoenix park, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, then a back bench TD from Offaly, attended a celebration party at the Conrad Hotel hosted by Robert White – the close associate of Bertie Ahern.
White was a director of Sonas. PJ Mara as a public relations consultant for the project. Norman Turner was chief executive.
And don’t forget. The plan was shot down on June 18, 1996, because the Rainbow Coalition shot it down. They wouldn’t bring in the gambling legislation and after a Task Force report, the Cabinet decided against the project.
Harry Shiels, chairman of the West Dublin Action Group opposing the plan said they were pleased with the outcome. “We met John Bruton, Proinsias De Rossa, Ruairi Quinn, Hugh Coveney and other senior politicans,” he said. “We also met Mary Harney and Bertie Ahern. But we got no support from Mr Ahern on the issue, and I would be worried that, if Fianna Fail were in power, it many have been a different story.”
Ahern has always said he never backed the project. How odd.
It’s a shame it never went ahead, Ahern would have got his dream of a 63,000 seater stadium, the one thing he said he regretted not doing on his resignation.