PAUL O’Connell joined his fellow Limerick City of Culture 2014 board members at a business breakfast briefing hosted by the Chamber of Commerce this week, at which Titans of industry from the region were in attendance.
The towering Munster lock joined chairman Pat Cox and fellow board members Bill Whelan and Tim O’Connor at the event, which was attended by business leaders from Dell, Bank of Ireland, Shannon Airport, UPC, Vistakon, Barringtons Hospital, Aughinish Alumina and more.
The first in a series of engagements with the business community, the event was billed as “paving the way for on-going dialogue and engagement” with leaders of industry in the Mid-West, who might delve deep to support the cultural initiative.
Former European Parliament president Cox said at the briefing in the Strand Hotel that it was not intended to ask for money, but that the City of Culture team would need support in time.
All parties involved in City of Culture - included new artistic director Karl Wallace, who began his role this week - have admitted that funding will be a major issue, and Paul O’Connell, speaking at the event, acknowledged that “the challenges are massive” to its success.
“The project is something I am very excited to be involved in,” he said. “Working with guys like Pat and Bill, I realised how long rugby players have to go when we come out of the game. There are a lot of ‘I’s to be dotted and ‘T’s to be crossed when you are dealing with these kind of events, and I have realised that we are certainly in at the deep end in terms of trying to organise a big event for Limerick.
“With Pat and Bill on board there seems to be a big drive to get things done, and particularly to get things done the right way,” he added.
To much laughter, the former Ard Scoil Man admitted he was “more of a bull in a china shop than Pat would be”.
“I seem to go straight through things, Pat has a way of going around things, and has been a pleasure to watch so far. I think if we give him the right support it is in the right hands and we can make a great success of this year.”
As Cox had earlier acknowledged, Paul said funding was a “massive part” of the challenges facing the programming for next year. However, he urged people to get behind it.
“We need a good series of events almost before we can get the funding, and we need the funding to get the good series of events, so it is a bit of a chicken and an egg situation,” he said.
“But there has been a lot of positivity from people in the city when they find out you are involved in something like this, they tend to have a lot of ideas and a lot of interest and I think it is important the whole city rallies behind it.”
Karl Wallace said the culture team were seeking the input of the public.
“It is a great challenge and grass roots is going to be very important to this programme,” he said.
“We need people to contact us and give us their ideas so we can look at those and look at how Limerick residents become creative citizens in 2014,” he added.