County boss accepts criticism of CEO appointment
LIMERICK city and county manager Conn Murray has accepted criticism over the process used to appoint Pat Cox's former special adviser as the chief executive of Limerick City of Culture 2014.
Controversy has surrounded the process used in the appointment of Patricia Ryan to the top job, as the 18-month contract was not advertised.
A native of Limerick, Ms Ryan previously worked for Mr Cox -- who is chairman of Limerick City of Culture Board -- when he was in the European Parliament.
Ms Ryan has also worked as special adviser to Mary Harney as health minister.
The controversy surrounding her appointment was raised at last night's monthly meeting of Limerick City Council, where it was claimed proper protocol in the appointment process was ignored.
Former mayor of Limerick John Gilligan asked the manager if he had broken any government or ministerial guidelines.
Labour councillor Tom Shortt, who spent four years on the board of the Belltable Arts Centre in Limerick, said Ms Ryan's appointment had caused disquiet in the cultural community. He also claimed he was aware of plenty of candidates who would have welcomed the opportunity to apply.
"I'm concerned that proper protocol was completely ignored and this had led to cause for huge concern not just among the media -- there is disquiet in the cultural industry itself," he said.
Fine Gael councillor Jim Long, also a former mayor of Limerick, called for Ms Ryan's appointment to be reversed, claiming the recruitment process had "blighted the start of a wonderful year for the city".
Addressing the matter, Mr Murray admitted the approach in appointing a CEO for the Limerick City of Culture would have been different if he had more time.
"I accept the criticism around the process and if, quite honestly, I had been given a different approach to this, different time lines, obviously the approach would have been different," Mr Murray said.
Mr Murray insisted he used a process that was "highly acceptable in context of the private sector" to ensure the most appropriate person was put in place to do the job.
While the position of CEO was not advertised, Mr Murray said he "personally identified a number of potential candidates", including Patricia Ryan, and engaged with them in confidence.
"I would have met people confidentially, there are times and locations where I had those conversations," he said.
"I have no difficulty answering to the department or, indeed, any grouping around that process because it was clearly there, proper governance was followed and the board have made the approval of the recommendation."
No decision has yet been made on the salary attached to the CEO position, however reports of €170,000 a year were dismissed by Mr Murray as "absolute nonsense".