Galway 2020 may face significant shortfall in funding

Project is under strain amid signs Galway County Council is no longer committed to it

Galway 2020 chief executive Hannah Kiely

Galway 2020 chief executive Hannah Kiely

 

Fears have been expressed about funding for Galway’s stint as European Capital of Culture in 2020, amid signals that Galway County Council is no longer fully committed to the project.

Former city mayor Pádraig Conneely has said the €45.7 million budget for Galway 2020’s year-long artistic programme could now face a significant shortfall, due to the county council’s failure to follow through on a promised €6 million sum.

Mr Conneely, who is currently a Fine Gael councillor, also said there were “questions” over the handling of the appointment of a Galway 2020 business engagement director, who was to be set the target of raising up to €7 million from the private sector.

The Irish Times has learned that a business engagement director position at a salary of €65,000, plus a “performance-related package”, was advertised through a Northern Ireland-based recruitment company, with a closing date for applicants of October 25th last.

An applicant was offered the post, but was informed shortly afterwards that the post was being “withdrawn”.

The applicant, a prominent businessman, declined to comment, but confirmed that legal advice had been sought.

Galway 2020 said it had “not yet appointed a business engagement director” but would not comment further.

Mr Conneely said he believed there were “governance issues” with the handling of the post by the Galway Cultural Development and Activity Company, which was set up to underpin the Galway 2020 programme.

Galway will become the third Irish city to serve as European Capital of Culture since the scheme began in 1985. Dublin held the title in 1991 and Cork in 2005.

Mr Conneely, who chairs Galway City Council’s economic development and cultural committee, said the city council would pay its promised €6 million contribution to the project in full, funded through a 3 per cent rate increase, and had paid €2.6 million to date. However, he said the county council had only given €500,000 to date.

Mayor of Galway Pearce Flannery (Fine Gael), who is on the board of Galway 2020, said he was “concerned about progress” in relation to funding and the position of Galway County Council.

Operating costs

The overall budget is €45.7 million, of which €39 million is for operating costs.

These costs are due to be partially covered by €15 million in funding from the Government, and €12 million from Galway’s city and county councils.

Another €3.5 million is to be raised from the “region”, €3 million from the EU, and €5.5 million from “other” sources. Some of the programme and marketing budget will be supplemented by “in-kind” support, according to the bid book.

Last week, Galway 2020 chief executive Hannah Kiely made a presentation to Galway County Council in which she stressed the importance of both city and county.

She said that more than 60 per cent of the communities that had engaged with the programme’s “Small Towns, Big Ideas” initiatives were based outside Galway city.

However, Galway County Council chief executive Kevin Kelly said the local authority was not in a position to say what additional contribution would be made beyond €2 million, and that any additional funding would be “for further discussion” when it had “more information” from Ms Kiely.

Mr Flannery said that the bid book for the project had included joint local authority commitments.

“This is a very prestigious designation for Galway, which will be representing Ireland, and we need to try and ensure that we frontload as much of the funding as possible to ensure the programme is delivered in full,” he said.

Language, landscape and migration were the three themes of Galway’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2020, and British theatre director, curator and writer Chris Baldwin was appointed Galway 2020 creative director last year.

Mr Baldwin was curator of interdisciplinary performance for Wroclaw, Poland, when it held the European Capital of Culture title in 2016.