Monday 23 October 2017

Claims of phone hacking as culture chief resigns

Patricia Ryan: resigned
Patricia Ryan: resigned
Karl Wallace, then Artistic Director Limerick City of Culture and Pat Cox, Chair, Limerick City of Culture pictured at a business breakfast in Limerick last year. Photo: Sean Curtin
Patricia Ryan, former CEO of Limerick City Of Culture pictured at the public meeting in the Clarion Hotel, Limerick at the weekend: Photo: Brian Arthur/ Press 22.

Barry Duggan

GARDAI are to be called to investigate the Limerick City of Culture controversy after a mobile phone belonging to Patricia Ryan -- who has stepped down as CEO -- was allegedly hacked.

The Irish Independent has learned that Ms Ryan fears her mobile phone messages have been intercepted.

She will make a complaint to the gardai later this morning.

Friends of the former City of Culture chief executive were aghast to see her resignation announced online -- at a time when she had only informed her immediate family of her imminent decision.

She only confided in family members yesterday morning and had decided to release a statement at 3pm.

However, a message left on her voicemail around noon from a family member, which insinuated what was about to happen and that a statement was forthcoming later in the day, is now feared to have been accessed by a third party.

A post on a website that indicated the CEO was about to resign was uploaded more than an hour before her statement was released.

Ms Ryan will personally bring the matter to the attention of the gardai in Limerick, who will be asked to investigate whether her phone's messages may have been hacked.

The development marks a new low in the ongoing saga and comes less than 48 hours after the Limerick City of Culture's Facebook page was hacked.

Ms Ryan is a former political adviser to chairman of the City of Culture Pat Cox, when he served as an MEP, and Health Minister Mary Harney .

She informed the Board of Limerick National City of Culture and Manager of Limerick Local Authorities, Conn Murray of her decision to resign as the festival's CEO.

Minister Jimmy Deenihan said he never committed to micromanaging the city of culture project.

The chairman of Limerick City of Culture, Pat Cox, responded to Ms Ryan's resignations saying: "We need to draw a line under this. We need to move on in a calm way."

He said that there is "no question of more resignations helping this situation".

"I'm determined to do everything I can and we can to hit the reset button to put together in place the neccesary resources, to complete the negotiations with the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaelteacht on finally securing funds for the City of Culture," Mr Cox said.

He also ruled out the possibility of Karl Wallace being reappointed as artistic director.

Ms Ryan said she decided to resign as "the speculation and commentary surrounding the events of recent days has regrettably compromised my authority and capacity to continue leading this project.

"It is important that a suitable successor is appointed to lead out on the next important phase and ensure the delivery of the programme and the project which is so vital to the rebranding of Limerick.

"I would like to pay particular tribute to the exceptionally hard working team of people in City of Culture that I have worked alongside on this project.

"Their dedication, diligence and commitment will ensure the continued success of this project.

"I wish the Limerick National City of Culture 2014 project every success and as a proud Limerick woman will continue to offer it my support," she said.

One of the people who called for Ms Ryan's resignation, John Greenwood, chairperson of the Professional Limerick Artists Network, (PLAN), said that this was not a victory but welcomed the resignation of Ms Ryan.

"This is not a victory but we do welcome it as something that just had to be done. This was never about Patricia Ryan's character," he said.

Mr Greenwood said his organisation is available to support the project in all its capacity, and would like to talk to the board of the project and lend their expertise. He was among a group of people who had called for the resignation of Ms Ryan and the board at a heated public meeting last Friday night, as he said they had completely lost the confidence of the artistic community.

UNTENABLE

Author, poet and former director of the Belltable Arts Centre in Limerick, Mary Coll, said Ms Ryan made the right decision.

"I think it was the right decision for her to make under the circumstances. I think her position became untenable after the events of the past week, with the resignation of the entire cultural team I think the confidence that people had in City of Culture was shaken and from the outset there have been problems with this appointment," Ms Coll said.

Richie Ryan, an actor and theatre school director, said he believed Ms Ryan had no choice but to resign, and that she did the right thing.

"It's unfortunate but changes had to be made as she had lost the confidence of people in the artistic community."

Irish Independent

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