Clash of commerce and culture: Limerick councillors row over performance space in city

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Clash of commerce and culture: Limerick councillors row over performance space in city

MAYOR Michael Sheahan says it would be more appropriate to turn over a Cecil Street facility to a local business than to a community group.

He was speaking as councillors were asked to note the proposed disposal of The Gaff at 36 Cecil Street to Tait House.

The Southill community enterprise, led by Tracey Lynch, is seeking to buy the space, used by a theatre group, for €90,000 and then undertake €50,000 of works in the first year.​

Councillors will formally decide on the plans at Monday’s full monthly meeting in County Hall.

But after it emerged there were eight expressions of interest to take over the building, the Fine Gael mayor questioned whether it would be more appropriate to put a private enterprise in there, in light of the fact the Theatre Royal is lying idle.

Speaking at the metropolitan meeting, Mayor Sheahan asked: “Would a company not be more suitable for that area? In the heart of the business district, we need to have companies. I feel more jobs could be created at the Gaff and accommodate Tait House elsewhere.”

Director of service Jayne Leahy said that Tait House will support the Gaff in its endeavours.

“The proposal for the building was perfectly suitable. Eight applications were received under Expressions of Interest. This whole area is developing into a cultural quarter,” she said.

Metropolitan district leader James Collins said: “If we sell all the buildings to business, we will be forcing arts and culture groups out to the suburbs. We need people to come into the city centre to participate. The difference between the Gaff and the Theatre Royal is we own it. It's not a good idea that the city becomes all businesses.”

Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon, Fianna Fail, added: “This group attracts members and supporters who come from all over the city and the county. We need to be seen to provide facilities to bring life back to the city centre.”

When councillors asked for more details around the bids, Ms Leahy suggested they make a Freedom of Information request.​

This angered Cllr Daniel Butler, who said: “We are being asked to make decisions, but we do not know anything about the decisions we are making. I do not feel I should have to make a Freedom of Information request. As a council, you ask and trust me to make decisions - so I need information that gives me a level of comfort.”