Cultural disarray in Limerick


Limerick deserves better than the unseemly disarray and recrimination that now surrounds its designation as City of Culture. To lose an artistic director is unfortunate but for that to be accompanied by the resignation of two other key organisers raises serious questions for City of Culture board and casts a shadow over the whole enterprise.

The claim by former director Karl Wallace that he was sidelined in planning for the City of Culture’s inaugural new year’s eve event seems extraordinary given his title and role; equally the comment by board member Pat Cox that the resignations may be “ a blessing in disguise” is a less than dignified or satisfactory response. The report that the chief executive Patricia Ryan expressed unhappiness with artistic content – the lyrics of a rap song – does not help matters.

That all this happened on the eve of the launch and in the wake of a previous controversy over the process to appoint the chief executive creates neither goodwill nor a good impression of a project in which the government has invested heavily from dwindling resources for the arts.

The Government’s €6 million to fund this project was given at a time when both the Arts Council and Culture Ireland received detrimental cuts to their funding. The council’s cut of over seven percent certainly hinders its capacity to carry out its remit as the primary source of the development of the arts in Ireland. The “city of culture” initiative itself raises more fundamental questions around Government policy on the arts.

Perhaps Limerick councillor Tom Shortt identified what has become the principal pillar of any such policy when he said “this is all about beds and nights in the hotels”. The extent to which the arts are now locked into the language of the marketplace seems to suggest that the basis of investment is the return that comes to the exchequer – which is no way to devise cultural strategy or place on the arts the proper value they deserve in a fulfilled society.

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