Finance Minister Michael Noonan yesterday urged an end to the row which has centred on the appointment of the new CEO of Limerick City of Culture 2014 Patricia Ryan.
Ms Ryan was appointed on the recommendation of Limerick city manager Con Murray, without advertising the position. She is a former advisor to former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox, who is chairman of the City of Culture board.
Mr Noonan, speaking at the official opening of a €6m visitor attraction at King John’s Castle, called on everybody to unite behind the City of Culture project.
He said: “It gives the opportunity to rebrand the city and put out a new image of Limerick. Brendan Behan once remarked at a meeting of the republican movement that the first item of the meeting agenda was the split. I would hate if the City of Culture would start out with the first item on the agenda, the split. Let us get on with it. There are forums to sort out difference of opinions.”
Asked about criticism that the proper process had not been adhered to in filling the position, Mr Noonan said it was a temporary, 18-month post and Limerick was extremely lucky to get someone of Ms Ryan’s competence: “Decisions have to be made... ‘The process’ is killing the country. At times, things have to be done and I fully support the decision.”
King John’s Castle has doubled its visitor numbers to 40,000 since reopening in June following the €6m revamp. Funds of €4.7m for were provided by Fáilte Ireland, with the remainder coming from Shannon Development.
Mr Noonan said: “In King John’s Castle we now have an iconic visitor attraction to rival any around the world. It is the jewel in Limerick’s portfolio of visitor attractions and a fitting testament to the versatility and resilience of the people of Limerick, and captures their story in a new and imaginative way.”
John Ruddle, chief executive of Shannon Heritage, Ireland’s largest operator of tourist attractions, said visitor numbers to date have exceeded expectations.
Visitors can enjoy a brand new experience that brings together the castle’s history and archaeology through 21st century technology.
Costumed characters in the courtyard depict what life was like in the castle during its turbulent history. Stilt walkers, medieval musicians, and a jester add to the atmosphere.
A spokesman said: “It is an exciting, ultra-modern visitor experience with a dramatic history of over 800 years of stories.”
The castle will be open all year round, closing for three days over the Christmas period. Admission prices are being held at 2012 rates — adults €9; seniors €6.65; children under five go free; family rate (two adults and two children) €20.60; (two adults and up to six children) €23.50. Tickets can be purchased on site or at the new Shannon Heritage site shannonheritage.com
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