Monday 22 January 2018

Calls for key staff to be reinstated

Minister Jimmy Deenihan
Minister Jimmy Deenihan

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

ARTS Minister Jimmy Deenihan is facing demands to get key arts staff back on board for the €6m Limerick city of culture project after its chief executive suddenly quit.

Patricia Ryan stepped down after a week of controversy which had seen artistic director Karl Wallace and two other staff tender their resignations in protest at how the project was run.

She had previously been backed strongly by Mr Deenihan, pictured, and Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who said last year she was a "very good appointment".

She previously worked in the European Parliament with Pat Cox, chairman of the city of culture board. She subsequently worked as an adviser to former Health Minister Mary Harney.

But there are now demands on Mr Deenihan to secure the return of Mr Wallace and the two other specialist staff who quit before Ms Ryan resigned.

Labour councillor Tom Shortt, brother of comedian Pat, said they should not be left out in the cold. He said he believed they would be willing to come back.

"They are the brains of the operation. They were constructing the whole thing. These are the people the artists were working with," he said.

Mr Deenihan is travelling to Limerick this week to meet the board and Limerick city manager Conn Murray, who has been under fire for his handling of the project.

But one of the key tasks will be to draw up a detailed agreement on how to spend the €6m provided for the project. Work is still ongoing on this 'service level agreement' and no money has yet been transferred, even though Limerick's year as City of Culture 2014 has already begun and 100 events are due to take place over the next three months.

Mr Deenihan thanked Ms Ryan for her "considerable efforts". He promised that more artists would be appointed to the board -- which includes Munster rugby player Paul O'Connell.

"It is important that we move forward in a calm and measured way," he said.

One of the most controversial issues was the appointment of Ms Ryan without the job being publicly advertised. Mr Deenihan said Mr Murray had publicly acknowledged he would have used a different process to appoint Ms Ryan "if today was yesterday".

"We didn't get involved in appointing any of the personnel. We left that to the city council," he said.

He told RTE's 'This Week' programme that he would have talked to Mr Wallace if he had been aware he was going to resign.

Fianna Fail arts spokesman Sean O Fearghail accused Mr Deenihan of being "asleep on the job" at a very important time for Limerick.

"He needs to take a much more active role now and make sure that an open and transparent process finds the correct leader of the project as soon as possible," he said.

Sinn Fein's Sandra McLellan said Mr Deenihan should start talks with all stakeholders.

Irish Independent

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