City of Culture chairman Pat Cox refuses to quit

Chairman of Limerick City of Culture Pat Cox has defied calls for him to quit after his former political adviser resigned as the organisation’s chief executive yesterday.

Mr Cox said after the departure of chief executive Patricia Ryan and artistic director Karl Wallace that there would be no further resignations from the troubled body.

“It has been a very challenging start but we need to draw a line under this,” said Mr Cox. “There is no question of more resignations helping the situation.”

Mr Cox spoke after his former political adviser Ms Ryan released a short statement in which she said her ability to do her €120,000-a-year job had been compromised by the “speculation and commentary surrounding the events of recent days”.

Ms Ryan’s resignation means the project is effectively rudderless, coming as it does within a week of the resignation of Mr Wallace, who claimed he had been sidelined by Ms Ryan.

International programmer Jo Mangan and commissioning and legacy programmer Maeve McGrath also quit.

Controversy surrounding Ms Ryan’s appointment has raged since the Irish Examiner revealed her 18-month contract was not advertised and Mr Cox was at the meeting approving her appointment, despite his role as her former employer.

As recently as Friday, the Limerick woman said that, while criticism was “tough to listen to”, she would not be stepping down. This followed repeated calls for her to do so at a heated meeting of the artistic community attended by Ms Ryan and Mr Cox.

However, last night Ms Ryan said her “authority and capacity to continue leading this project” had been fatally compromised.

With the future of the project in the balance, Limerick TD Willie O’Dea called on Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan to intervene.

“Let the minister intervene directly because the money for this is coming from Government,” said Mr O’Dea. “This is a chance for Limerick to recast its image and the sooner that this is resolved, the better.”

Mr Deenihan conceded yesterday that he had relied largely on media reports to keep him up to speed on the crisis emerging, because it was the “holiday period”.

He said he learned of Mr Wallace’s resignation when he read it in a newspaper. Last night, Mr Deenihan said Mr Wallace will be replaced, and he would meet with the board of Limerick City of Culture, the city council, and arts community this week.

Meanwhile, the City of Culture board said last night that it had accepted Ms Ryan’s resignation and was “putting in place arrangements to ensure the continued implementation” of the year-long programme. The board said it would announce a range of measures in the coming days, and that Ms Ryan would “work with the board to ensure a smooth transition and continuity”.

Fianna Fáil TD and public accounts committee (PAC) chair John McGuinness said they would be writing this week to Niall Ó Donnchú, assistant secretary at the Department of Arts, asking him to furnish the PAC with details of the procurement process followed when appointing Ms Ryan.

Mr McGuinness said Mr Ó Donnchú, who is on the City of Culture board, had previously assured them that guidelines had been followed.

Limerick was the first city in Ireland to be designated a national city of culture.

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