Limerick councillors fume at their ‘exclusion’ from culture club

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

Bill Whelan, Pat Cox and Paul O'Connell are spear-heading the Limerick City of Culture initiative [Picture: Sean Curtin]
CITY manager Conn Murray has said he has “no difficulty” enlarging the board of Limerick City of Culture 2014 to accommodate councillors.

CITY manager Conn Murray has said he has “no difficulty” enlarging the board of Limerick City of Culture 2014 to accommodate councillors.

Limerick City Council has successfully bid to become Ireland’s inaugural city of culture next year but its elected members this week vented their anger at what they perceived as a snub to councillors in constituting the board.

That body already includes former MEP Pat Cox; composer Bill Whelan; Munster Rugby’s Paul O’Connell; Tim O’Connor, The Gathering 2013; Orlaith McBride, The Arts Council; Niall Ó Donnchú, Department of the Arts; Dave O’Hora, Southern Advertising and accountant Brian McEnery.

At Monday’s meeting of the City Council, cultural committee chairman Cllr Michael Hourigan said he found it “very disappointing that no councillors are on the board”. This contrasted with Derry, which is celebrating its year as the UK’s City of Culture and has four councillors on the board, he said.

“People ask me what’s going on and I tell them I don’t know. They tell me ‘aren’t you the chairman of the cultural SPC?’ I want to know who made the decision to exclude councillors from the board,” Cllr Hourigan demanded.

Cllr Diarmuid Scully proposed that the mayor and four members of the City Council should be put on the board. “Even if we were all philistines around here with no knowledge of culture, there should still be councillors on it for the very good reason that we have provided a lot of money for it and will allocate more in next year’s budget. For reasons of oversight, there should be councillors on it,” he said.

Cllr Scully’s proposal was seconded by Cllr Tom Shortt while Cllrs Jim Long, Maurice Quinlivan, Kieran O’Hanlon, Orla McLoughlin, Pat Kennedy and Joe Leddin all agreed that councillors should be included in planning the year’s events.

Mr Murray said councillors had previously been briefed on who was being sought to sit on the board.

People with backgrounds in politics, culture and sport had been brought in and also people with “specific marketing and financial skills have been brought on to the board without cost”, Mr Murray said.

The board was still being added to and “if the council is seeking to expand it further, I have no difficulty at all in that”, he said.

Mr Murray added that members of Limerick County Council should also have the opportunity of sitting on the board.

The manager said his “door is always open” for councillors to air their concerns.