Galway 2020 events may be ‘cancelled or scaled down’ as funding dries up

Tempers flare as councillors vote against allocating further funds to ‘car crash’ project

The scene at South Park, with flooding in the foreground, where the opening ceremony for Galway 2020 was to take place on Saturday. The  ceremony had to be cancelled due to weather conditions caused by Storm Ciara. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

The scene at South Park, with flooding in the foreground, where the opening ceremony for Galway 2020 was to take place on Saturday. The ceremony had to be cancelled due to weather conditions caused by Storm Ciara. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

A number of events planned as part of Galway 2020 will be “cancelled or scaled down” following a decision by Galway City Council not to allocate a further €2.5 million to the project on Monday night.

After a hot-tempered meeting, councillors voted by a margin of 11 votes to five against providing the extra funds, which would have brought the total investment by the local authority up to €8.5 million.

Speaking at the meeting, Patricia Philbin, CEO of Galway 2020, could not clarify which of the proposed events would be affected, but said that “some of the announced events could be cancelled or scaled down”.

Ms Philbin indicated that all the original “bid book” events announced in 2018 would go ahead in some form and that negotiations were continuing with a number of possible funding partners.

Brendan McGrath, CEO of Galway City Council and a board member of Galway 2020, said that neither organisation would go into debt to fund Galway 2020.

Galway 2020 is a good programme but it is turning into something sour for the people on the ground

“The board [of Galway 2020] will only work within the available funds. There will be no unpaid bills or legacy debt,” he said.

Mr McGrath also said that the projected value to Galway city of the events planned under Galway 2020 was in excess of €17 million.

Dissatisfaction

Green Party councillor Pauline O’Reilly expressed her dissatisfaction with the information provided by Galway 2020 at the meeting.

“We are elected by people to ensure that their money is well spent. This is an insult to those people,” she said.

“I don’t want to be negative. Galway 2020 is a good programme but it is turning into something sour for the people on the ground.”

It was also revealed that Galway County Council would only provide €4 million towards the cost of Galway 2020, €2 million less than had been expected. No explanation for this reduction was provided on Monday night by Galway 2020.

Galway City and County Councils were both originally expected to contribute €6 million each to the joint project.

“It doesn’t seem like a joint bid anymore. Out of a proposed cost of €12.5 million, we are being asked to fund €8.5 million,” said Cllr Ollie Crowe (Fianna Fáil).

Who decided to host an opening ceremony on a flood plain, beside the ocean in the middle of February?

Council CEO Brendan McGrath claimed the projected cost of Galway 2020 was “much less” than previous European City of Culture events. He said that outside sponsorship for Galway 2020 was “on track” and that the organisation has raised just over €2 million in cash and in-kind sponsorship to date from 95 confirmed sponsors.

Opening ceremony

A number of councillors also expressed concerns around the organisation of the opening ceremony of Galway 2020, which was cancelled on Saturday as a result of Storm Ciara.

“Ever since this bid was won it has been a car crash,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Alan Cheevers.

“Who decided to host an opening ceremony on a flood plain, beside the ocean in the middle of February?”

Ms Philbin could not give a figure for the overall cost of the cancelled opening ceremony, but said that some of the costs may be covered by insurance.

“The event on Saturday was disappointing,” she said. “Regardless of where we held it on Saturday, it would have been cancelled.”