New chief executive for Galway 2020 appointed after resignation

Concern about capital of culture project mounts among artists

A file photograph from July 2016 shows the then minister for arts Heather Humphreys with members of the Galway team who won the European Capital of Culture for 2020. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

A file photograph from July 2016 shows the then minister for arts Heather Humphreys with members of the Galway team who won the European Capital of Culture for 2020. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


The Galway 2020 European capital of culture project has appointed local authority official Patricia Philbin as chief executive, following the recent resignation of businesswoman Hannah Kiely after over a year in the role.

Ms Philbin, a Galway City Council director of services, has been seconded to the role.

She was formerly project manager for Galway 2020 in the bid phase, leading the team that secure the European capital of culture designation in 2016.

Her predecessor, Hannah Kiely, announced she was stepping down last month. The €46 million project is still without a creative director since appointee Chris Baldwin resigned in late May.

In a statement, Ms Philbin said she was delighted to be “re-joining the team at such a crucial time for the project”.

“I’m very excited about working with Galway 2020 as it comes closer to 2020. This is a project that has always been close to my heart, and I look forward to working with the team on making this an exceptional year for Galway county and city,” she said.

Galway 2020 chairwoman Aideen McGinley said the board was “delighted” with the appointment.

“We are confident that the future of Galway 2020 is in safe hands, as Patricia has extensive experience in leading the 2020 team, a project I know she is very passionate about. We welcome her and look forward to working with her to drive the project forward between now and 2020,” Ms McGinley said.

A group of 21 art projects, involving major players Macnas; Music For Galway; Galway Film Fleadh; Fibín; Galway Community Circus and Blue Teapot and Branar theatre companies are so concerned about the project that they have sought an urgent meeting with the chief executives of Galway city and county councils.

They are seriously worried about a loss of creative vision, funding shortfalls, poor communication and other issues such as a decision to require VAT registration for projects over a certain size. This may require up to 23 per cent of funding allocations to be returned to State coffers.

The artists’ grouping believes the project may only realise half of its quoted €46 million budget, which helped the city to secure the designation against competition from Limerick and the three “sister” cities of Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford.

A second EU monitoring panel report, published this summer, warned that Galway was in “danger of losing track with the project and incurring further delays”, and identified the need to appoint a new cultural leader.

The EU panel also noted an “apparent loss of enthusiasm on the communication of the initiative” and questioned the relationship with the cultural sector community in view of media reports on “alleged lack of trust and confidence”. Its report made 15 recommendations, including defining and integrating a new cultural leadership plan “as soon as possible”, and clarifying the “roles, hierarchies and relationships” of the team.

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