Hong Kong tycoon Ivan Ko is remaining tight-lipped on any plans to visit Kerry in the coming weeks after media reports suggested that the billionaire will visit Ireland this month as part of his plans to build a new city from scratch.
Mr Ko’s Victoria Harbor Group, an international charter city investment company, has considered Kerry as one of six possible Irish sites for a city that would accommodate tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents.
He began discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs last December, and a map exchanged between Mr Ko and a Department official highlighted these potential sites, one of which appears to be located between Tralee and Killarney.
In an interview with The Kerryman in July, Mr Ko said he would “for sure visit Kerry as one of the potential sites” when he visits Ireland. He said the city would occupy an area of 50sqkm and would be home to 100,000 people once mature, with up to half of these being immigrants from Hong Kong.
Mr Ko said the project, which comes at a time of increasing unrest in Hong Kong, is not seeking to build a new nation. The Department – which since appears to have poured cold water on the plans – has said it has taken no further action on the matter since having ‘limited contact’ with Mr Ko, but the businessman was still hopeful of securing a site before the end of the year.
The Irish Independent last week reported that Mr Ko plans to visit County Louth, another potential site, later this month having sent a representative to speak to Dundalk Chamber of Commerce in recent weeks.
The Kerryman again asked Mr Ko if he planned to visit Kerry should he visit Ireland this month, but he would not provide any clarity on this matter.
“Sorry! I will not receive any interview,” he said. He said that his refusal to comment was due to “the unexpected spike of publicity in Ireland”.
Paddy Malone of the Dundalk chamber told The Kerryman that he did meet representatives of Mr Ko but has not had contact with the Ko side since. He added that no plans in relation to Ko visiting Louth have been arranged.
He said that none of the other potential sites, including Kerry, were discussed during their meeting, and the discussion instead focussed on the advantages Mr Malone believes the M1 corridor has over any other region in Ireland.
Kerry County Council told The Kerryman that it has not had any contact with the Ko side.
The Kerryman also contacted five chambers of commerce on or near the earmarked Kerry site last Friday to find out if they have had any contact with Ko. Both Killorglin and Castleisland’s chambers said they had not, while Killarney, Milltown, and Tralee had not responded to this newspaper’s queries by the time of going to print.