Galway won the EU culture crown after concerns over its rivals' bids
An EU report has revealed that Galway won the prized 2020 European Capital of Culture after concerns over the funding, operational and legacy issues of rival bidders Limerick and the 'Three Sisters' of Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny.
Galway will now serve as European Capital of Culture in 2020, becoming the third Irish city to do so after Dublin in 1991 and Cork in 2005.
The prestigious cultural role is worth between €150m and €200m to the host city in terms of both tourist earnings and the international marketing profile.
The winning Galway bid was variously described as "ground-breaking," "authentic" and "aspiring".
But the EU report from the 10 bid assessors had criticisms for both Limerick and the Three Sisters cities.
They expressed surprise that Limerick, despite having one of Ireland's youngest populations, had done very little to engage with its youth groups.
"The co-operation with schools, youth groups and higher-education students was underdeveloped," it said.
"Given 50pc of Limerick's population is (aged) under 30 years this was a surprising omission."
The assessment group admired the way Limerick's €37m bid had portrayed the area's move from 'problem city' to cultural destination.
But it queried some of the legacy claims in the bid.
"The panel noted that there was little information on the projected social and economic impact of the Capital of Culture, especially given the two impact studies of Limerick 2014.
"The panel noted the ambitious plans of the cultural strategy but was concerned that the proposed additional funding for culture in the city by the city (rather than by national organisations not under the control of the city) was not clear."
In the case of the Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny bid, the panel was taken aback by some bid elements.
The document pointed out that the €31m Three Sisters bid had included a special EU funding prize in its funding model.
This was despite the fact that the €1.5m Melina Mercouri prize from the EU is conditional and normally excluded from the proposed funding plan.
The panel also noted that it struggled to differentiate between the proposed Capital of Culture programme and existing events in Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny.
"The region currently has festivals of undoubted quality, with strong programmes attracting an international audience," it said.
"However, the panel was not able to identify how their 2020 editions would be different from their normal offer.
"The panel considered that the proposed programme relied too heavily for its artistic impact on existing festivals (notwithstanding their quality)."
Assessors stressed that the most admirable part of the 'Three Sisters' bid was the concept of communities like Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny working closely together on joint cultural and art projects.