Willie O’Dea says Government to blame for Limerick arts crisis

The Government have been partially blamed for causing the crisis at Limerick’s City of Culture due to a delay in funds going to projects and amid calls for the arts minister to intervene.

However, as the fallout continued over resignations from the project, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan was preparing to enter talks with Limerick city chiefs and the remaining members of the city of culture’s board.

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea said people in the city were “bewildered, shocked, and horrified”. He also put the blame for the crisis on the Coalition. The local TD said a delay in funding for the arts project had meant that City of Culture chairman Pat Cox had very little time to appoint a CEO for the project.

CEO Patricia Ryan stepped down over the weekend and her departure is the fourth from the project, following the resignation of artistic director Karl Wallace among others.

“The minister is the person responsible for the spending of money in question,” Mr O’Dea told RTE’s Morning Ireland. “This is taxpayers’ money. If the local organising committee can’t get their act together then of course it is up to the minister to bang heads and to ensure that the process goes forward smoothly.

“One of the problems was the money was very slow in being sanctioned and the money hasn’t come through yet. I would lay that fault at the feet of the Government.

“The money should have come through sooner, which would have left the manager in a much better position to hold an appointment process with regards to a chief executive.

“He [Mr Cox] was left with very little time because of the slowness of the process there.”

Mr Cox said at the weekend that none of €6m in public funds had been released yet. City of culture board member Tim O’Connor yesterday said this was for “technical” reasons.

“If they can’t get their act together within a very short period of time now and get on with the work, it’s incumbent on the Government to intervene to make sure that that happens,” said Mr O’Dea.

Mr Deenihan’s office last night said he was preparing to travel to Limerick to meet the city’s local authority chiefs as well as the remaining members of the city of culture board.

However, Mr O’Dea added: “We have to make sure that [taxpayers’ money] is spent in the best possible way. This is all about enhancing the image of Limerick which has gradually been winning the battle against an unfair, negative image for the past couple of decades.”

Mr O’Dea said the year of culture was an opportunity to “rebrand” the city once and for all.

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