The appointment of the chief executive of Limerick City of Culture 2014 could cause reputational damage to the city, a councillor has claimed.
Patricia Ryan, former adviser to ex-president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, was given the position on the recommendation of Limerick city and county manager, Conn Murray. The job was not advertised, it emerged.
Mr Murray has confirmed he recommended Ms Ryan to the city of culture board, of which Mr Cox is chairman, which accepted it.
The position is believed to hold a salary of over €150,000. Limerick City Council is the only shareholder in the event.
Labour city councillor Tom Shortt, brother of actor Pat, described it as a “political appointment”.
Mr Shortt said Ms Ryan had no background or any qualifications to do the job.
“That’s the reality. People within the whole [arts] sector are very unhappy.”
Mr Shortt, who sat on the Belltable Arts Centre board for a number of years, said the matter could do “reputational damage to Limerick, way into the future”.
He accused the city manager of forgetting “proper protocol”.
Mr Shortt said the CEO appointment should have been made from within the Irish arts sector.
“But, we recruited somebody who is essentially, and it is very evident, is a political appointee — somebody who is being looked after, for a cushy number with a salary,” he added.
The appointment was raised at the meeting of the city council last night.
Mr Murray told councillors he was satisfied there was no breach of recruitment regulations. He said he understood criticism of the process, but that Ms Ryan “was the right person to do the job for Limerick”.
He said the project was under pressure to secure a CEO because of funding delays.
“I understand why there is criticism of the process, but it must be seen in the context of the availability of the timelines of the programme and the available budgets.
“I’m very confident the person in place is the right person to do the job for Limerick.”
He added that Ms Ryan’s salary “will be in line with public sector pay and the Haddington Road Agreement. It still has to be finalised. It will be done by an independent remuneration board.”
Fine Gael councillor Diarmuid Scully said: “The situation has been mishandled. There is collateral damage to our image.”
Former mayor of Limerick Jim Long called for a full enquiry.
“Is she [Ms Ryan] being paid by public funds? I think the answer is ‘yes’. The position should have been advertised. There should be a full and detailed enquiry.
“The fact that the head of a local authority can recommend someone for a job causes me great concern.
“It doesn’t bear well for a very important year ahead for Limerick.”
Sinn Féin councillor Maurice Quinlivan said: “It just doesn’t look good”.
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