Limerick councillors want resolution on Belltable row

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

CITY councillors have called for a resolution on the noise issue which has blighted performances at the Belltable Arts Centre.

CITY councillors have called for a resolution on the noise issue which has blighted performances at the Belltable Arts Centre.

Management at the O’Connell Street venue are in dispute with local garage owner Michael Daly over access to his garage.

This followed the Belltable’s upgrade during 2010, which Mr Daly maintains has adversely affected his company.

The latest performance to be affected was the London Classic Theatre’s performance of Equus, with many people in the audience complaining that a radio could audibly be heard in the background.

In the past, Mr Daly has employed an angle-grinder during performances.

At this week’s council meeting, a row broke out between Cllr Tom Shortt, Labour, who sits on the Belltable board, and Cllr John Gilligan, Independent.

Cllr Shortt described the disturbances during performances as “a concerted, sustained campaign of anti-social behaviour”.

But Cllr Gilligan, while acknowledging the problem had to be solved, said: “Maybe if it was developed properly, we wouldn’t be facing into this issue. We cannot resolve it by saying ‘It’s all your fault’. When the planning application was made, recommendations were made, which were rejected. We seemed to ask: ‘Who are you? You have only been here for 20 years’. We cannot just get rid, and I do not want this message to come from Limerick City Council.”

The pair started arguing about the issue off the microphone.

It was Fine Gael’s leader on the council Diarmuid Scully who initially raised the matter, saying: “The Belltable is one of the single most important cultural centres in the city centre. The noise pollution there is very disruptive, and is having a negative impact on performances. It is far too important an institution that this problem is not sorted.”

He believes – as does Cllr Shortt – that “it is getting to the point where theatre companies do not want to perform in Limerick.”

Towards the end of the debate, Cllr Shortt made a further attempt to speak, but he was ruled out of order by Mayor Jim Long, who said it was “not appropriate” he spoke again.

In anger, he said: “You should give me a chance. I am a representative on the Belltable board.”

Director of service at Limerick City Council said that all options to resolve the Belltable impasse are being explored.

Three weeks ago, Gerry Barnes, the artistic director of the Belltable, said box office takings from bookings had almost doubled year-on-year.

Despite the problems with the noise, sales of tickets had risen by 82 per cent, from €82,000 in 2010 to €147,000 last year.

During its multi-million euro renovation, the Belltable Arts Centre had moved into Cecil Street for a short time.