Limerick councillors question arts grant allocations

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Concerns were raised in the chamber about the council's exposure to debt
FIFTY-nine individual artists, groups and organisations are to share €20,000 in arts grants this year. But the list of allocations, which was presented to councillors last week, was not without some controversy.

FIFTY-nine individual artists, groups and organisations are to share €20,000 in arts grants this year. But the list of allocations, which was presented to councillors last week, was not without some controversy.

There were 88 applications submitted for funding, councillors were told and for the 59 that were successful, the grants ranged from €100 to €1000.

But Cllr Michael Collins (FF) said he wanted to see the full list as only two from the Newcastle West Municipal District were successful. “Who decided on the applications?” he asked.

“The successful applicants seem to be leaning very heaving towards the city,” Mayor Kevin Sheahan (FF) remarked but Cllr Bill O’Donnell (FG) was having none of. “If 75% of applications came from the city, they are entitled to get 75% of the allocations,” he said.

“If the 29 unsuccessful applicants were from the county I would have grave concerns,” Cllr Jerome Scanlan (FG) said. He felt a 70/30 split in favour of the city was “not fair”.

“This is about quality as well as quantity,” director of services, Pat Dowling said. But he went on to explain that all applications were assessed by the council arts office and there was an independent evaluation committee.

CEO Conn Murray asked councillors to “place a little bit of trust” in the people making the decision.

But there were questions too over why the allocation was signed off by Mike Fitzpatrick as director of the Limerick 2020 Bid. (He was chief executive of Limerick City of Culture in 2014).

“I am confused as to why the annual arts grants are being issued in the name of a director whose main work is putting a bid together for 2020, “Cllr James Collins (FF) said. He didn’t believe the allocation of arts grants fell within the remit of that organisation.

He was surprised, he added, that the name of the appropriate director of services was not on the report.

Mr Murray, CEO, insisted however the decision on funding had been made independently and he defended Mr Fitzpatrick saying he does have the required expertise.

However, he agreed the scheme should be looked at and that there should be “some re-evaluation”.

Evaluation on the basis of where you come from was not the way to go, Cllr John Gilligan insisted. However, it was clear he believed some evaluation was necessary. “The Turner prize was given to a fellow who put a brick in the middle of the room”, he pointed out.