Fast-tracked City of Culture job decision defended

Pat Cox's former special advisor Patricia Ryan was appointed chief executive of Limerick City of Culture 2014

Limerick city’s manager has defended the fast-track appointment of Pat Cox’s former special advisor as the chief executive of Limerick City of Culture 2014.

The ex-European parliament president, Mr Cox, had already been appointed to chair the board of Limerick City of Culture and attended the meeting in which the chief executive’s selection was ratified.

The new chief executive, Patricia Ryan, had worked for Mr Cox in the European parliament and later was a special advisor to Mary Harney as health minister.

The chief executive’s position was not advertised or tendered for.

Limerick City manager Conn Murray said he personally identified Ms Ryan as being one of a number of suitable candidates for the 18-month post and it was not the initiative of any member of the board.

He said other possible candidates were unavailable because of the “timelines and expectations” involved, and he believed the person best suited for the position had got the job.

“Patricia, who had already shown her capabilities from earlier in the year through her role as an advisor to the board of the City of Culture, was the outstanding candidate,” said Mr Ryan. I recommended her appointment to the board, which was accepted.”

Efforts were made to contact Mr Cox..

After she left Brussels, Ms Ryan became Ms Harney’s best paid advisor with a salary of €143,450.

In Limerick, a remuneration committee is being established to decide on Ms Ryan’s pay in her new role.

Limerick City of Culture had received a number of queries on the issue, which suggested a salary scale of approximately €170,000.

However, Mr Murray said “the suggested amount bears no resemblance to what the agreed salary is likely to be”.

Even though her pay has not yet been decided, Ms Ryan has accepted the appointment, subject to contract, and the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht has been notified.

The City of Culture 2014 has been set up as a special purpose vehicle. It is a limited company falling under the jurisdiction of Limerick City Council.

On Thursday, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, expressed concern about the level of oversight which central government would have on the €6m budget recently approved for the Limerick City of Culture 2014 project.

He sought assurances from the department that proper procurement rules would be followed in all cases.

The department said the special purpose vehicle fell under the remit of Limerick City Council but the €6m granted by the department would still be monitored as part of its own centralised audit.

The committee heard that there would be a “cascade” effect which would see the C&AG audit the department’s books and this would, in turn, provide oversight of the €6m it gave Limerick for the event.


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