'They are actively looking for funding mechanism'

Minister Peter Burke says that the government are “doing their very best” to ensure that the plan to build Ireland’s largest film studios in Mullingar goes ahead.

Minister Burke’s remarks came days after Mullingar Studios executive Tom Dowling confirmed to Midlands 103 that the plans to develop a film studio in Mullingar “have been put on ice”. Mr Dowling said that the project had stalled due to a number of external factors, including the actors’ and writers’ strikes in the United States, the war in Ukraine, high interest rates and construction costs.

While confident the project will proceed, he said that it will need government support.

“My discussions have been around talking to various ministers to see if we can get support from government to get this project off the ground, because if we get it off the ground, it’s going to reap huge rewards for the midlands, and for the country as a whole.

“We can see where the film industry is going – it is on a trajectory. We just need to invest a little bit more money into it at this stage so that we can reap those rewards in four or five years’ time, and we will.”

Acknowledging the support that the government have given the film sector in recent years, Mr Dowling said that if additional funding is provided, projects like the film studio planned for Mullingar will thrive.

“The government have invested a serious amount in terms of tax incentives to develop the sector but I think it’s time to go a little bit further than that… We need to grow our studio base, that’s one of the things I will be saying to the local ministers in Westmeath, and also at a national level, if they come in and support us in getting that studio off the ground.”

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner on Friday from Atlanta in the United States, where he attended a series of meetings and events as part of the government’s St Patrick’s Day programme, Deputy Burke said that over the last six months, he has been working hard to try to help ensure that the project secures the funding needed to get it over the line.

“We are doing our best to try to open as many avenues as we can through government in order to try to find a financing solution for the incredible opportunity that is the studio.

“I think it is important that the team did clarify the position for people to ensure they know exactly what is happening. There is a significant risk at this point in time, but we will do our best.

“I have held a number of meetings with colleagues in government and will continue to do that and advocate the best I can to try to get a funding arrangement for the studio.

“When they say it’s shelved for the moment, that means that they are actively looking for a funding mechanism. It’s not that people aren’t working in the background. I want to assure everybody that we are trying to explore every single avenue to get the project off the ground.”

If funding is secured for the project, Minster Burke says it will be a major boost for the local economy.

“A project of this scale would have so many benefits for so many different supply chains, from mechanical engineering to makeup artists, to set production – you name it – there are so many trades that are needed.

“We will do everything we can, but we have to be realistic, fair and honest that it is a significant ask to try to get it off the ground in the current environment, but we will do our best.”