Calls for resignation of board of Limerick City of Culture

Board chairman Pat Cox describes Wallace resignation as ‘bump in the road’

Calls were made at a heated meeting in Limerick last night for the resignation of the board of Limerick City of Culture following claims of no confidence in their stewardship.

More than 500 people including members of the artistic community as well as the City of Culture board's chairman, Pat Cox, and under-fire chief executive Patricia Ryan attended the packed public meeting at the Clarion Hotel.

It was organised in the wake of the resignation of the City of Culture's artistic director Karl Wallace and programmers Jo Mangan and Maeve McGrath,

'Bump in the road'
Addressing the meeting, Mr Cox said Mr Wallace's resignation was not expected, anticipated or wished for, and that it was a "bump in the road". The board did not want to create a sense of distance or exclusion and it would move to appoint a new artistic director in the next week.


He said a member of the artistic community would also be brought on to the board.

Anger was expressed in the room about Mr Wallace’s resignation, and the manner of the appointment of Ms Ryan without a public competition. She will be paid €120,000 for her 18-month contract.

"I sat with people over Christmas who are revolted. People are looking for absolute transparency and accountability in this country, We have had enough in this country of a culture of nepotism and cronyism," Cllr Tom Shortt told the meeting.

Many said they had no confidence in the the chief executive, the board or the chairman and there was a large show of hands after calls were made for Ms Ryan to resign.

“We had a good person in Karl Wallace because he came through a proper process of recruitment. The CEO did not come through a similar process,” Mr Shortt claimed.

Dr John Greenwood, chairman of Professional Limerick Art Network, told the meeting there was no confidence in the board. "As a gesture to the city, Patricia Ryan should step down as CEO and an artistic co-ordinator and team be put immediately in place to help deliver Karl Wallace's vision," he said.

Continue working
In her first public comment since Mr Wallace's resignation, Ms Ryan insisted she would "very much like to continue working" with the City of Culture.

“I have never claimed to have an artistic or cultural background. My job is not to provide the artistic direction,” she said.

When asked by a member of the public what she would bring to the table, she replied: “I would like to bring the project management to the table. The artistic direction is for another team and I hope we will be in a position to move on very quickly from this.”

Mr Cox insisted he had nothing to do with the appointment of Ms Ryan, his former adviser, to the position of chief executive. Mr Cox also dismissed suggestions his appointment was a political one and said he has never sought to abuse his “privilege” as chairman. “I have never solicited that any specific thing be done. Integrity and values matter to me – I insist that at no stage did I seek the appointment of any person.”

Limerick city and county manager Conn Murray told the meeting that in his 34 years as a public servant, he had never had his integrity questioned.

“Unfortunately, people have decided to concentrate on personality and process rather than the delivery of a programme,” he said.

At a press conference later last night, Ms Ryan admitted it was “tough” to listen to calls for her resignation but insisted she would not step down. “People that shout the loudest aren’t always the majority, can I just say that,” she said.

Asked if she would be happy to see Mr Wallace return to his position, she said it was “a matter for Karl, Karl resigned”.

Mr Cox also insisted that he will not be resigning from his voluntary position. “I know there are those who would like to see me fold in the face of criticism but I am determined to see this through.”

A further public meeting is due to take place next week.