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Arts funding is 'open and transparent', councillors assured

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Zoe Conway and John McIntyre who were awarded €2,550 for five concerts in Carlingford Heritage Centre in 2020

Zoe Conway and John McIntyre who were awarded €2,550 for five concerts in Carlingford Heritage Centre in 2020

Ken Finegan/Newspics

Zoe Conway and John McIntyre who were awarded €2,550 for five concerts in Carlingford Heritage Centre in 2020

The allocation of Arts Grants was done in an 'open and transparent' manner, councillors have been assured after one claimed it was biased towards Dundalk and north Louth and another suggested 'the same people' were getting funding every year.

The 1st round of 2020 grants was listed in a report before the meeting, and it showed that twenty-nine applicants received sums ranging from €250 to €2,550.

'Why do we not vote (on this)?' Cllr Maeve Yore asked. 'There needs to be an open and transparent process.'

She added the council used to vote on it. She felt the same people were getting the bigger amounts.

While he was sure every applicant deserved their grant, Cllr Hugh Conlon believed the system was 'weighted in favour' of Dundalk and the north of the county.

He said 13% went to Drogheda and mid-Louth got a 'miserable, paltry' €590.

He noted two applicants in Dublin got a combined €2,300.

'I wish everyone who got grants well. I've been watching (the grants) very closely over the last five years and they are always biased towards the north end of the county each and every year.'

Cllr Conlon wondered why Drogheda which had hosted the last two Fleadhs got so little in comparison.

For the second round of grants he proposed each of the three municipal districts gets a minimum allocation based on population breakdown.

He added the scheme could be advertised in the normal way, and separately in each municipal district.

'I think serious changes are needed.'

Cllr Conor Keelan remarked he didn't know how Cllr Conlon's proposal could be applied.

On the separate issue of Members' Allocations, he noted there were thirteen councillors in Dundalk, 6 in mid-Louth and ten in Drogheda, yet they were each given an equivalent form of funding.

Cllr Tomás Sharkey said they should not use geography as criteria. If they did, applicants would just move their address.

'If we want to discriminate on geography, we are moving a step backwards.'

He advised members that they have their councillor's allocation with which to make a localised allocation.

Cllr Jim Tenanty said this issue came up every year. He agreed with some of what each of councillors Conlon and Sharkey said.

He believed a change was required, whether through the municipal districts or a sub-committee.

Cllr Kevin Callan called for a more locally-based system, by 'going back to local members on the ground'.

Director of services Paddy Donnelly said the Arts Grants awards were all open and transparent. 'I want to spell that out.'

He explained that 2012 legislation took the allocation away from the elected members.

Mr Donnelly revealed all applicants in the first round were awarded grants 'weighted on the basis of the event, and all considered on their merits'

Cllr Colm Markey wondered was perhaps the message not getting out there enough for people to apply.

Chief executive Joan Martin said there was nothing to stop people applying for grants.

She said the allocation was an executive function, and she was satisfied it was done in an open and transparent manner.

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