Councillors set for crunch talks to find €100,000 for the Foynes Air Show
THERE are high hopes planes could still fly in the skies over Foynes this summer after councillors stepped in to help save the air show.
Members have this week agreed to hold crunch meetings with the event organiser Margaret O’Shaughnessy in order to find ways to plug the funding shortfall, which came after the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) pulled its sponsorship.
The possibility of the council stepping in to provide the €100,000 funding has not been ruled out.
The issue was raised at two committee meetings this week after the move has left the show grounded for the time being.
At the economic committee meeting, Cllr Liam Galvin saw a motion unanimously passed that a delegation would meet Ms O’Shaughnessy and also lobby at government level in the hope the show is given the clearance for take-off.
“It’s one of the most spectacular shows we have. The volume of people in Foynes for that weekend and the impact it has on the local economy cannot be under-estimated. It is of the utmost importance we deal with this,” Cllr Galvin said, “This is beyond belief. If this was allowed to happen in the city, there would be uproar.”
It was Adare-Rathkeale councillor Stephen Keary who broached the issue of the council stepping in to provide an “interim” €100,000 for the show, suggesting it be taken from the €497,000 arts and cultural fund.
“We should make every effort to keep this fantastic show going,” he declared.
However, the council’s director of social development Gordon Daly said if the council did step in, it would mean money is taken from other areas.
And he also expressed his concern that €100,000 would then be required to see the show go ahead in 2020.
In theory, however, he accepted councillors could approve the funding, but this cannot happen until full council meets at the end of March.
However, sources have told the Limerick Leader there is nothing stopping members from holding a special meeting at short notice to approve the money – stopping the wait of more than a month.
Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon, who chairs the cultural committee said he is “not happy” with proposing the €100,000 interim fund, but suggested Mayor James Collins and the district chairman meet with Ms O’Shaughnessy to explore the event’s feasibility.
Mayor Collins said he had “no problem” leading a delegation, and also said the Minister ofr Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan should also be approached.
There was sharp criticism of Failte Ireland, after it emerged the tourism body had allocated just €7,000 towards the event, Cllr Joe Leddin describing it as “paltry”.
Mayor Collins added: “We are the only local authority which has a cultural committee and a festivals and events fund as we don’t get enough money from Dublin, from the department for festivals and events. This council has to step in all the time, we are subsidising things using refundable contributions. But ultimately Foynes isn't happening because we did not get enough money from Failte Ireland.”
Askeaton councillor Kevin Sheahan had a more cynical take on matters.
He said: “I hope it is not a coincidence that the IAA is under the wing of that genius Shane Ross and I similarly hope he did not have his fingers in this particular pie.”
The Foynes Air Show began in 2014 and included arts and aircraft.
It formed part of the IAA’s Aviation Ireland weekend.
However, in December, the IAA wrote to the show’s organising committee to say that the authority had reviewed its policy on Corporate Social Responsibility and had decided to focus its CSR activities in a different area, namely “targeted education and awareness programmes and opportunities”.
As a result it would not be in a position to be a major supporter for this year’s air show but said that it would be disappointed if the event was unable to go ahead.