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Ireland failed to click with Web Summit: Founder

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Tristan Fewings | Getty Images

Ireland's government has failed to engage with one of Europe's largest technology conferences and its big-name delegates, losing out on a chance to hold the event next year, the showcase's founder has told CNBC.

Web Summit - which is expected to draw in 30,000 attendees this year from companies such as Facebook and Google - has been held in Dublin, Ireland, since its inception in 2010. But Paddy Cosgrave, the event's founder, is to move the show to Lisbon, Portugal, next year after falling out with the Irish government.

Cosgrave accused government authorities of not making the effort to have key meetings with important delegates.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for ministers, possibly to engage. So we've had ministers from countries all over Europe who've come to this event to meet with high-level attendees, but never in the history of the Web Summit has an Irish minister met with a single high-level delegate in a bilateral meeting," Cosgrave told CNBC at an interview in Dublin on Monday.

Lisbon 'took demands seriously'

"And yet countries all over Europe will fly all this way on trade missions and meet with these people. But unfortunately, our own ministers, our own government isn't prepared to just walk down the street to meet these people."

In a statement to CNBC, a spokesperson for the Irish government said it supports Web Summit's move.

"The Government and its agencies have been happy to support the Web Summit and help it grow in scale each year. We wish Paddy and the team every success with the move to Lisbon and look forward to providing assistance with any events they may wish to host in the future," a spokesperson said in an email.

Previously, Paschal Donohoe, the Irish minister for transport tourism and sport has said the government was willing to engage for next year's event.

"We have events that are far bigger than the Web Summit happening. We're successfully able to deliver traffic management plans, we're successfully able to get these people around safely and in a convenient way through our city, and the same would have happened if the Web Summit had happened in Dublin in 2016," Donohoe told RTE News last month.

Cosgrave has been at loggerheads with the Irish government for some time over the event. He has demanded that better traffic management systems be put in place, hotels don't overcharge and the Royal Dublin Society, where the event is held, be upgraded to cope with a growing show. Cosgrave has written directly to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny's office about these issues.

The Web Summit founder released email correspondence between himself and government ministers in October and accused them of a "complete lack of co-ordination."

But the government has defended its handling of the show and said in a statement at the time that the emails "are a selection of rather than a full account of contact between the summit and Government and its agencies."

Now the event, which brings around 102 million euros ($112 million) to the Irish economy, according to the country's government, will be hosted in Lisbon next year. Cosgrave said that Dublin has "reached its infrastructural limit" and said Libson took its demands "seriously".

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"I think they really took seriously our demands that we wanted our attendees to have the best experience possible, that we needed public transport to be absolutely right, and then at night they will be able to work with us to turn the city into just a spectacular destination for people to go on pub crawls and to go on evening events," Cosgrave told CNBC.

The Web Summit co-founder did not confirm or deny that he was offered any monetary incentive to move to Lisbon.

"Every single city that approached us over a great many years starting four years ago made offers for why we should move to their city, much the same as has happened with World Cups."