Helix financial future bleak

By Steve Conlon

The Helix, the arts and performance centre of DCU, continues to struggle financially according to a confidential document seen by the College View.

In a report to the DCU Executive Committee in May Eamonn Cuggy, Finance Officer for DCU advised that “despite controls being put in place, it is likely that The Helix will still have a significant deficit at end of 2011 and that the outlook for the next 3 years will not repair that position”.

In his report Mr. Cuggy also advised the Executive that an annual subvention is paid by DCU to The Helix of €500,000. At the end of September 2010, the company’s balance sheet had to be repaired through a capital contribution from DCU of €7.3m, funded from company surpluses.

The Helix is managed by UAC Management Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of DCU Commercial Limited, the university holding company. This company owns the DCU Sports Complex and two student residents’ blocks, listed as assets, and has been given a letter of comfort from the university to facilitate bank borrowings. UAC Management Limited began trading in 2003.

DCU owns over ten companies through its holding company and the profits from these companies continue to keep The Helix afloat. The existence of The Helix does however have other intangible benefits to DCU which are highlighted in the document. These include footfall on the university from conferences and attendees spending money in the various other commercial enterprises of DCU, including the restaurant, shop and accommodation. 247 events took place in The Helix from October 2009 to September 2010 but the Executive have requested that DCU payments for non-revenue generating events be clarified.

Mr Robert Nutty, the CEO for DCU Commercial attended the June DCU Commercials meeting and made a case regarding the financial future of The Helix. The outcome of this meeting is unknown. A source close to The Helix and the commercial companies fo DCU told the College View that “there is a strong desire to keep The Helix as a going concern, controlled by the university but all options were being examined.

The university must be responsible in the management of its financial concerns, even those not funded by the taxpayer. The Helix cannot be allowed to continue as a monstrous blackhole where capital just disappears. There is so much potential in other projects”. DCU President Prof. Brian MacCraith was contacted by the College View whilst in India on university related business. On Monday President MacCraith told the College View that an appropriate “detailed response” to questions relating to The Helix would be ready in time for the next edition.

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