Sherkin arts course saved after grant aid is doubled

A unique arts course on an island off the south-west coast has been saved after Cork County Council said it would double grant aid to keep it afloat.

Sherkin arts course saved after grant aid is doubled

The council has been supporting the BA in visual arts on Sherkin Island in recent years and has provided it with grant aid in excess of €140,000 during that time.

However, a couple of weeks ago the local authority decided that it was only going to provide €10,000 this year for the course which is run by Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS) in conjunction with Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

There was uproar among councillors after SIDS said it might have to close the course unless the council doubled its contribution.

A recent crunch meeting of the members of West Cork Municipal District Council, their staff, and representatives from SIDS to discuss grant aid.

Following that meeting, it was suggested that the grant aid should be doubled, but this had to be ratified by members of the full county council at a meeting in County Hall.

The proposal was put to councillors by members of the West Cork Municipal District Council.

“We want the council to continue to support this [arts degree programme] and get rid of any uncertainty in the future” said Fianna Fáil councillor Joe Carroll. “This is a real winner for what it is doing for the community in Sherkin Island.”

Since the course started in 2007 five people involved have gone to live on Sherkin and it is estimated the course is worth €150,000 per year to the island’s economy.

Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Murphy said the €20,000 should be granted from the county council’s Economic Development Fund (EDF).

The EDF is funded from rates and pays €1.1m a year in grants to emerging businesses and ideas which provide a boost to the economy.

Mr Murphy said EDF funding was therefore ideal for the Sherkin course as “it comes in under the development umbrella”.

Fine Gael councillor Mary Hegarty said West Cork was “a hub for the arts” and the Sherkin project had to go on.

Independent councillor Danny Collins said it was vital that the council committed, not only to adequate funding this year, but in the years to come. “We need to support it into the foreseeable future,” he said.

Fine Gael councillor John O’Sullivan described it as “a unique course” and said he hoped the council would continue to support it.

Council chief executive Tim Lucey said the local authority had grant-aided SIDS in excess of €140,000 in the past number of years.

He said SIDS had made a €60,000 surplus from 2014 to 2016.

“The issue is what level of funding is needed to ensure the programme continues,” said Mr Lucey. “If €20,000 is needed from us it will be given.”

He said SIDS would have to show the council details of its expenditure for the degree contract with DIT.

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