Arts Council to review conflict-of-interest rules

Grant awarded to mother of council executive

Sheila Pratschke: the incoming chairwoman of the Arts Council told the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht she wanted to ensure such an incident would not happen again. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

Sheila Pratschke: the incoming chairwoman of the Arts Council told the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht she wanted to ensure such an incident would not happen again. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 01:18

The Arts Council is reviewing its conflict-of-interest procedures after the mother of one of its departmental heads was awarded a €16,500 grant from the same department.

The incoming chairwoman of the Arts Council, Sheila Pratschke, told the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht she wanted to ensure such an incident would not happen again.

The Irish Times reported on Saturday that Patricia Flynn, a singer from Co Armagh who spends part of her time in Co Donegal, was awarded the grant for folk and traditional singing initiatives. The Arts Council is already reviewing the grant, a process to be completed in the coming days.

The grant was allocated for the Stray Leaf Folk Club and Sliabh Gullion Festival of Traditional Singing under the Arts Council’s traditional arts section. Ms Flynn’s son Paul is the head of traditional arts at the Arts Council and one of a number of people responsible for assessing initial grant applications under its Deis programme.

The final selections are made by a judging panel. Mr Flynn contributes to the selection of the panel.

Ms Pratschke appeared before the committee yesterday as part of a confirmation process before officially taking up her post. She was asked about the incident involving Mr Flynn, who did not return calls last night, by Louth Labour TD Gerald Nash.

Internal review
Mr Nash said it raised “some potential governance issues within the Arts Council” and asked if the Oireachtas committee could be provided with any internal review on the grant.

Ms Pratschke said there was a “disciplinary procedure in process”. “That is how we are dealing with that matter but I think probably, more importantly, we will revisit all of the issues of conflict of interest in relation to governance of the Arts Council and ensure that there such an issue cannot arise again,” she said.

Mr Nash asked if the internal Arts Council review could be provided to the committee, and Ms Pratschke said it could if legal advice permitted.