News Analysis

Sunday 31 August 2014

For Patricia Ryan all that was missing was a gallows

Barry Duggan

Published 06/01/2014 | 02:30

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2/1/14    TAKEN ON 18/11/13
Patricia Ryan, Limerick City of Culture.
.  Pic Sean Curtin Photo
Patricia Ryan. Photo: Sean Curtin

AS a sporting city, Limerick is well known for having proudly dismantled many a foreign invading pack. But this weekend, it turned on one of its own -- and there was not much nobility about it.

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The baying hordes had a prey -- in the form of former CEO of Limerick City of Culture, Patricia Ryan.

But following several days, none of which is likely to be remembered fondly in the city, the question is what next?

On a night of howling winds and driving rain, a throng of 300-plus members of the artistic community congregated in the Clarion Hotel on the city's quays -- but the storm outside was nothing compared to what happened within.

Understandably frustrated by a Limerick City of Culture programme that has been hampered by timeline challenges -- not least the fact that it had fewer than three months between being notified of its budget and its New Year's Eve launch -- they thronged this meeting with much to get off their chests.

And that they did, with the public face of the project, Patricia Ryan, by and large the target of their energy and anger.

While not one of their own in an artistic sense -- something she readily admitted -- Ms Ryan's administrative credentials were impeccable, with a background in solid project management and bureaucracy.

Her credentials were similarly impeccable when it came to her personal background.

Born in Limerick, her late father Christy Ryan was a detective sergeant in Henry Street and her mother from the Caherdavin area of the city.

She has three sisters and one brother, all living and working in Limerick.

She was schooled in the city, studied at the University of Limerick and went on to work for Munster MEP Pat Cox and later health minister Mary Harney,

But local loyalties mattered not, as she became the lightning-rod for the artistic community's frustrations.

The reason for this was simple. The artistic community's go-to man in the office of City of Culture Karl Wallace had just days earlier walked away from the project, claiming irreconcilable differences with his CEO.

As one local pundit said, the artistic and administrative worlds are never comfortable bedfellows.

But when they woke up to find their preferred partner no longer there, and the CEO blamed for this, it was a relationship headed for a quick demise.

And on Friday night, it was their opportunity to cut loose, and that they did. For some of the more moderate people in the room, it was akin to a "mob mentality" at times.

Here was this local woman, sitting in a room of more than 300 people, many of whom were calling for her head and challenging her professional integrity.

They called incessantly for her resignation, and even engaged in an undignified show of cheering as if they had had a unanimous result in their favour -- 300 to one.

The odds were clearly stacked against her. And so it proved.

All that was missing was a gallows.

Patricia Ryan was not responsible for the controversial process surrounding her engagement. She took on the job in good faith but it appears she was an unwanted member of Limerick's "culture club".

In the midst of the maelstrom, her resignation yesterday was a dignified one.

Despite the torrent of abuse that has come her way, she is still up for a little more as she is willing to stay on for a few weeks to tie loose ends up and ensure the show goes on.

No doubt the City of Culture will go on.

Somewhere those who know best will remember her good work and those who don't, might remember Friday as not their finest moments.

Irish Independent

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