Deenihan: I didn't raise letters criticising NCH board members at AGM
ARTS Minister Jimmy Deenihan has admitted he did not raise controversial letters about National Concert Hall board members at the organisation's AGM.
The fallout from the letters and the minister's handling of them has been blamed for the sudden resignation of five board members following the meeting.
It is understood the letters – written by John McGrane, who was appointed to the board by the minister in 2011 – were critical of the performance of other board members.
Mr Deenihan insisted his approach to the letters was the same as to all other correspondence received by his office.
But he confirmed to the Irish Independent that he had not raised the matter at the AGM.
The members who resigned in the wake of the current controversy include Pat Heneghan, Bruce Arnold, Artemis Kent and Patricia Slavin – who were all appointed by the minster in July 2011.
The list also includes the board's chairwoman, Margaret Ryan, who replaced Kieran Tobin one year ago.
However, Ms Ryan had previously announced she would step down following the meeting.
Mr Deenihan yesterday told the Irish Independent that the correspondence had been "sent to the office" and to "a number of other people".
However, he refused to be drawn on when he received the letters.
But he confirmed that he had not raised the contents of the letters at the concert hall's AGM earlier this month.
"No, I went to the AGM and just outlined to them my plans for the National Concert Hall," he said.
When asked if he believed Mr McGrane had acted appropriately in circulating this material, he said it was a matter for the board, and should be resolved at that level. He insisted that he had taken all necessary measures on the issue.
Some of the board members have been critical of Mr Deenihan's handling of the situation.
Pat Heneghan said he had resigned with "great regret" but felt he had no choice.
"I had a lifelong association with the concert hall but because of the McGrane letters, I felt I had no option but to resign," he said.
In a statement, Mr McGrane said he has huge regard for the NCH's CEO Simon Taylor and his executive team, who "quite clearly do a brilliant job".
"I disagreed professionally over the past year with the point of view of a small minority of board colleagues," he added.
"The minister's support has been very important ... I encouraged my colleagues to focus on a positive strategy to realise the potential of the National Concert Hall and to support the executive in delivering it."
Ticket sales make up the main source of income for the NCH and added up to €6.9m for 2012, according to the most recently filed financial accounts.
Support for the National Concert Hall from the State, meanwhile, has been in decline in recent years.
The NCH received €2.67m in support in 2012 – a fall of €1.25m compared to 2008, though up slightly from the previous year's €2.6m.