Special report: Limerick community hopes Ryan step-down marks end to troubled saga

Minister Michael Noonan, Jan O'Sullivan and Minister Jimmy Deenihan at the launch of Limerick City of Culture.

The decision by City of Culture chief Patricia Ryan to resign from the project has been welcomed by many in the artistic and cultural community in Limerick.

Controversy surrounding Ms Ryan’s appointment to the €120,000 position has continued to rage since it emerged that the 18-month contract was not advertised.

The issue came to a head following the resignations of artistic director Karl Wallace and two programmers last week, days into the launch.

International programmer Jo Mangan and commissioning and legacy programmer Maeve McGrath were both contracted to provide services for City of Culture.

Mr Wallace, who quit 24 hours before the New Year’s Eve launch of the event, said his position on the board was “untenable” and claimed he could no longer stand over a project he had serious concerns about.

Calls for Mr Ryan’s resignation were made at a mass meeting of the artistic community attended by the CEO and other members of the board of Limerick City of Culture, including chairman Pat Cox, last Friday.

In a statement yesterday Ms Ryan, a former advisor to Mr Cox, said the speculation and commentary surrounding the events of recent days “has regrettably compromised my authority and capacity to continue leading the project”.

One of the people who called for her resignation, John Greenwood, chairman of the Professional Limerick Artists Network, said this latest development was not a victory, but welcomed the resignation.

“This is not a victory but we do welcome it as something that just had to be done. This was never about Patricia Ryan’s character,” he said.

Mr Greenwood said his organisation is available to support the project in all its capacity, and would like to talk to the board of the project and lend its expertise.

He was among a number of people who had called for the resignation of Ms Ryan and the board at a heated public meeting last Friday night, as he said they had completely lost the confidence of the artistic community.

Mary Coll, author, poet, and former director of the Belltable Arts Centre in Limerick, said Ms Ryan made the right decision.

“I think it was the right decision for her to make under the circumstances,” said Ms Coll. “I think her position became untenable after the events of the past week.

With the resignation of the entire cultural team, I think the confidence that people had in City of Culture was shaken and from the outset there have been problems with this appointment.”

Richie Ryan, an actor and theatre school director, said he believed Ms Ryan had no choice but to resign, and that she did the right thing.

“It’s unfortunate but changes had to be made as she had lost the confidence of people in the artistic community,” said Mr Ryan.

He wished Ms Ryan well and said he hoped now they could move on with the project.

Helen O Donnell, a leading member of the business community in Limerick said she hopes the decision by Ms Ryan draws a line under the controversy and the project can move forward.

“Everybody in Limerick wants the show to go on,” said Ms O’Donnell.


July 9, 2012:
Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan announced that Limerick would be the first national City of Culture in 2014. The announcement was made at the Strand Hotel, Limerick. There was no competition to chose a city and the criteria by which Limerick was chosen was never revealed.

Jan 7, 2013:
Pat Cox is announced as the chairman of the City of Culture board.

Jan 10, 2013:
The position of artistic director is advertised.

Feb 13, 2013:
Mr Cox, at a dinner in Limerick, outlines his vision for City of Culture 2014. Patricia Ryan also attended — it later emerges she was working as a consultant and was being paid €700 a day.

March 12, 2013:
The job of artistic director is filled by Karl Wallace. He is due to start in May.

Aug 19, 2013:
The City of Culture team circulate an email to express their disappointment that Mr Deenihan had not announced funding before the Dáil’s summer break.

Aug 26, 2013:
The Limerick Leader local newspaper highlights a growing concern among arts groups in the city that funding will not be announced until October’s budget.

Oct 15, 2013:
Mr Deenihan reveals €6m will be allocated to the City of Culture in the budget.

Nov 4, 2013:
Ms Ryan is appointed as CEO. She was given an 18-month contract for €120,000, plus an annual performance bonus of €15,000. In addition, the City of Culture programme is launched.

Nov 24, 2013:
Concerns are raised in the media regarding the appointment of Mr Ryan. It is revealed that the CEO position was filled without the process of tender and was “personally decided” by county manger Conn Murray.

Dec 8, 2013:
Mr Wallace writes to Mr Cox to express his concern about Ms Ryan running the festival.

Dec 31, 2013:
Mr Wallace resigns. Event programmers Jo Mangan and Maeve McGrath also submit their resignations. Mr Wallace said his position on the board was “untenable” and cites failures by Ms Ryan to communicate effectively or to allocate required resources.

Jan 3, 2014:
A heated public meeting is held in Limerick where calls were made for Ms Ryan’s resignation. Afterwards, Ms Ryan said the criticism was “tough to listen to” but insisted she would not step down.

Jan 5, 2014:
Ms Ryan resigns her position as CEO, stating that her authority had been compromised.

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