THE biggest shareholder in the troubled Cork Opera House — Cork City Council — voted full confidence in the theatre’s board of directors last night.
And the Lord Mayor Cllr Michael O’Connell led calls for increased Arts Council grant-aid for the venue in future. He said the grant aid from the council to date has been “disgraceful”.
City manager Joe Gavin also said he has confidence in the actions the board is taking to address the financial and restructuring measures needed to guarantee the theatre’s future.
Their comments came after Cllr Kenneth O’Flynn told a city council meeting he has lost confidence in the board following its decision to close the theatre last week for three months.
The closure, until September 29, was announced after a review of the books found it is facing a €300,000 loss. Staff have also been warned of wage cuts and redundancies as part of a drastic cost-cutting plan.
But Cllr Kieran McCarthy (Ind) expressed concerns last night the closure was announced just days after the council sanctioned a €1 million loan.
Mr O’Flynn said he is concerned about corporate governance at the theatre and he called on the board to be open and transparent about what led to the current difficulties.
He asked Mr Gavin to make available full detailed financial accounts for the theatre, the minutes of board meetings since the current board was appointed last year, and a full report on why it has to close for the summer.
But in a written reply, Mr Gavin said the day-to-day operation of the Opera House is a matter for its board of directors.
“The board of directors was appointed by the city council and it is my understanding that the city council has confidence in the board and in the actions which it is taking to address financial and restructuring issues,” he said.
He said he was made aware of the potential €300,000 deficit by the board chairman, Damien Wallace, a week before he sought council approval to underwrite a €1.5m loan, and extend a €1m loan to the venue.
Mr Gavin said he told Mr Wallace the city council was best placed to assist the venue.
“I have confidence in the board, until this council tells me otherwise,” he said.
He said interim CEO, Pádraic Liston, is aware of what measures are needed to put the Opera House on a sound financial footing to assure its future viability.
The venue is due to open on Friday for a performance by the Apres Match team.
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