UCD college President Andrew Deeks has issued a statement to staff on the Confucius Institute building revelations, claiming the increased €4.1 million UCD bill will “not impact on other capital projects on campus”.
The university head said the “remarkable” project has been “soured to some extent by the extraordinary delays we have experienced in bringing the building through planning and procurement and now through construction”. He accepted the “delays do not reflect well.”
The delays he explained “meant that by the time the prices for construction came in through the procurement process, building costs had increased significantly beyond those indicated in the design phase”. The correspondence was passed on to the Tribune in confidentiality.
President Deeks was commenting on the recent revelations the Tribune and the Irish Times broke this Tuesday on the new UCD Confucius Centre. The cost of building the centre has risen from €7.4 million to €10.2 million. UCD have been left to cover the €3 m overrun, after requests for more funding was rejected by both the Irish and Chinese government. The two governments are co-financing the building with UCD, which is to be the first purpose-built building for a Confucius Institute to receive direct funding from China.
In a regular circular sent around to all UCD academic staff the President said he was “disappointed” to see quotes from his correspondence with the Department of Education on the front page of the Irish Times. In the letter Deeks’ requested an additional €2.5 million from the Irish government to help cover the unexpected rise in the project’s cost (the letter was obtained by the Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act). He continued to say he was “concerned that the true potential impact of achieving this world first is being overlooked.”
The President claimed that the extra €3 million UCD will now have to pay to finish building the Centre will come from “increase[ing] the target of the philanthropic fundraising campaign.” However, the Tribune revealed this week that as of April UCD had only raised €100,000 out of the €1,600,000 (€1.6 m) they initially hoped to fundraise. It is unclear therefore how effective the university’s attempts to fundraise the now €4.1 million bill they have will be. The President stated the increased cost UCD have now had to absorb from their own budget will “not impact on other capital projects on campus”.
President Deeks confirmed that both UCD and Hanban (The Headquarters of the Confucius Institutes in China) “remain committed to the Confucius Institute” in UCD.
The controversy was also raised in the Seanad yesterday by independent Senator David Norris. Drawing on the figure obtained by the Tribune which exposed the unexpected inflated cost of the new Confucius Centre, the Senator said “the bill has risen to €10.2 million and it is now seeking extra cash.”
“I am glad the Department of Education and Skills has refused to give any more. It is right, because I believe we must look into this institute” stated Senator Norris.
“I am glad the Department of Education and Skills has refused to give any more”.
The Trinity Senator said the Institutes, which China look to promote in universities across the world, are “clearly a propaganda arm”. The Institutes he said “have been used across the United States to stop visits by the Dalai Lama, for example, and to stop discussions in universities about the situation in Taiwan”.
“They are centres for the teaching of the Chinese language, apparently, but they have also been described by China’s former Vice Premier Li Changchun as an important part of China’s propaganda set up. That is very interesting” the Senator remarked.
Norris continued to say he was “not prejudiced against the Chinese, but questions must be asked when a country [Ireland] funds a propaganda arm of another state with which there might be serious disagreements”.
“Quite recently, Members of this Parliament were warned by the [Irish] Government not to attend celebrations of the Taiwanese Government”. Norris concluded to say “I believe we must draw a line in the sand where China is interfering in” – but was cut off by the chair of the Seanad before he could finish.
Construction of the Confucius building is still on-going on campus. The initial deadline to have it completed by late 2015 was missed, as was the most recent deadline of September 2016.
Jack Power | Editor