New Arts Council chief to be questioned on grant review

Oireachtas committee to seek details as mother of head of traditional arts awarded grant of €16,500

Incoming head of the Arts Council is to be questioned over a grant awarded to the mother of the head of traditional arts at the organisation. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Incoming head of the Arts Council is to be questioned over a grant awarded to the mother of the head of traditional arts at the organisation. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 10:21

The incoming chairman of the Arts Council is to be questioned today on an internal review being carried out by the organisation after the mother of one of its departmental heads was awarded a €16,500 grant from the same department.

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 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 is 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. The incoming head of the Arts Council, Sheila Pratschke, is due before the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht this afternoon.

Louth Labour TD Gerald Nash is a member of the committee, and said he would ask Ms Pratschke about the review. Mr Nash also wants any reports on the matter to be furnished to the committee once they are completed.

Ms Pratschke is due before the committee as part of a confirmation process before she officially takes up her post.

Mr Nash said the “matter has set alarm bells ringing in the arts community and has led to concerns being expressed to me in relation to governance and accountability structures in the Arts Council, which I intend to examine at the committee”.

“It is important that the committee establishes Ms Pratschke’s view on the Arts Council’s handling of the awarding of a significant grant in 2013 to a relative of the head of traditional arts.

“It has been reported that an internal review into the matter is underway and I will be requesting that the Arts Council and its chair-designate makes the report available to the ommittee on its completion.”