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Thursday 22 March 2018

Local agreement required for future of Limerick City of Culture - Joe Costello

Joe Costello Minister of State for Trade and Development
Joe Costello Minister of State for Trade and Development
Patricia Ryan, CEO of Limerick City Of Culture pictured at the public meeting in the Clarion Hotel, Limerick of almost 600 people this evening following the shock resignation of its artistic director Karl Wallace. Pic. Brian Arthur/ Press 22.

Majella O'Sullivan and Kathryn Hayes

Junior Minister Joe Costello believes that the Board of Limerick City of Culture must obtain local agreement from the city on the way forward - ahead of filling the Artistic Director post.

Speaking to RTE Radio 1, he gave the following advice: "For the board not to be making decisions at this point in time, not to be recruiting new artistic directors, not to be making new appointments but to continue the process and to get agreement from the public."

"The next meeting is due to take place next week but, in the meantime, there should be quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to get an agreement," he said.  

Earlier this week, the City of Culture's Artistic Director, Karl Wallace, announced his resignation claiming his position had become "untenable". It was the first day of the City of Culture series of events. 

Mr Costello also told RTE that there should have been a public competition to appoint the Chief Executive Officer of the City of Culture project.

Patricia Ryan was appointed CEO without a public competition.

Last night, Ms Ryan faced down calls at a heated public meeting attended by 500 people for her to quit the €120,000 post, insisting: "I've come back to work on this project." She added: "I would very much like to continue working on it."

She said that criticism she sustained at the packed public meeting in the Clarion Hotel had been "tough to listen to", but told reporters afterwards: "Even during the meeting people were texting me, and coming up to me afterwards, offering their support.

"People that shout the loudest aren't always the majority, can I just say that," she added.

Mr Wallace announced his resignation and that of two members of his team, Jo Mangan and Maeve McGrath, on Wednesday.

He claimed there had been a breakdown in communication between him and Ms Ryan and complained that his team had been "sidelined" from organising events.

Addressing last night's meeting, City of Culture chairman Pat Cox said Mr Wallace's resignation was not expected, anticipated or wished for, and that it was a "bump in the road".

He said the board did not want to create a sense of distance or exclusion and that it would move to appoint a new artistic director in the next week. He also pledged a member of the artistic community will be brought onto the board.

Anger was expressed in the room about Mr Wallace's resignation, and the manner of the appointment of Ms Ryan, without a public competition. Ms Ryan previously worked for Mr Cox when he was an MEP.

Many at the meeting said they had no confidence in the CEO, the board or the chairman and there was a large show of hands after calls were made for Ms Ryan to resign.

Limerick councillor Tom Shortt told the meeting: "I sat with people over Christmas who are revolted. We have had enough of a culture of nepotism and cronyism."


And he claimed: "We had a good person in Karl Wallace because he came through a proper process of recruitment -- the CEO did not come through a similar process."

Echoing these comments, Dr John Greenwood, Chairman of Professional Limerick Art Network, told the meeting there was no confidence in the board, adding afterwards:

"As a gesture to the city, Patricia Ryan should step down as CEO and an artistic co-ordinator and team be put immediately in place to help deliver Karl Wallace's vision." Ms Ryan told the hostile audience that she intended to stay on as chief executive.

When asked by a member of the public what she would bring to the table she replied: "I would like to bring the project management to the table. The artistic direction is for another team and I hope we will be in a position to move on."

Ms Ryan continued: "My job is not to provide the artistic direction. The artistic director provides that but I would like to work with all of you."

Ms Ryan said the programme for the City of Culture would continue and acknowledged that a wonderful artistic programme had been put in place by Mr Wallace and his team.

Mr Cox insisted he had nothing to do with the appointment of his former adviser and dismissed suggestions his appointment was a political one and said he had never sought to abuse his "privilege as chairman".

"I insist that I have never solicited that any specific thing be done. Integrity and values matter to me I insist that at no stage did I seek the appointment of any person."

Limerick City and County Manager Conn Murray, told the meeting that in his 34 years as a public servant he had never had his integrity questioned.

"People have decided to concentrate on personality and process rather than the delivery of a programme," he said.

A further public meeting is expected to take place next week.

Irish Independent

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