A number of Cork county councillors expressed anger that the BA course in visual arts on Sherkin Island was under threat because their own local authority had cut its funding from €20,000 per annum to €10,000.
The course, which is run along with Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), is under threat because the council will no longer provide funding which matches that from the government.
Councillors met with members of the Sherkin Island Development Society last Monday to discuss the issue and have urged their management to engage in talks to ensure the future of the third level course.
Fianna Fáil councillor Joe Carroll said he was “outraged” that council bosses had not attended that meeting, which took place in the Kingsley Hotel.
“The way the council [executive] is treating this is a disgrace over a miserable €10,000. It’s a wonderful course,” he said, adding that the money could easily be found from within the local authority’s €1.1m Economic Development Fund (EDF), especially as the course brought much-needed cash to the island.
His party colleague, Christopher O’Sullivan, said: “We owe it to the community, the students and staff to get it money out of the EDF. Losing it would be akin to removing the Irish school from Cape Clear. It will have an economic knock-on in Sherkin and Baltimore.”
Fellow Fianna Fáil councillor Patrick Murphy said the economic recovery hadn’t reached in West Cork and the course was badly needed.
“It’s a very sad day when we aren’t supporting something so unique,” he said. “In our County Development Plan, Sherkin is designated as an Island of the Arts. We should be ashamed of what we’ve done to these people.
“The way they’ve been treated is nothing less than a thundering disgrace. You cannot leave them in the lurch halfway through an academic year.”
Independent councillor Danny Collins asked county mayor Declan Hurley to call an emergency meeting and sit around the table with the Sherkin group and DIT to sought it out.
“There are jobs at risk. Since the course started in 2007 five people involved have gone to live on Sherkin,” he said.
Council deputy chief executive Declan Daly said he was taken aback by some of the comments.
He said the council got involved in helping to fund it as a temporary measure and it was awaiting financial details from the group and would accommodate a meeting when it was forthcoming.
“We’re happy to meet once we have the information we sought,” he said.
Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy, chairman of the council’s Western Division, said they had a meeting next Monday and offered to use it to discuss the issue with all sides. He said he was willing to act as “an intermediary”.