Galway arthouse cinema board ‘co-operating fully’ with watchdog

Charities Regulator inquiry at Picture Palace ‘not in itself finding of any wrongdoing’

 Picture Palace  in Galway city: Element Pictures, which runs the Light House Cinema in Dublin, has taken over project management of the cinema. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Picture Palace in Galway city: Element Pictures, which runs the Light House Cinema in Dublin, has taken over project management of the cinema. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

The founders of an arthouse cinema in Galway have said they are “co-operating fully” with an investigation initiated by the Charities Regulator.

Film-maker Lelia Doolan of Solas-Galway Picture Palace said that her board was complying with the regulator’s inspector, who had been appointed after an initial examination last autumn.

The watchdog said on Thursday that the statutory investigation had been prompted by issues relating to “the proper treatment of the charity’s assets in a commercial arrangement proposed with a new investor”.

“It is important to note that the opening of a statutory investigation is not in itself a finding of any wrongdoing,”the watchdog said.

“The regulator met with some trustees of the charity in October 2016 and subsequently, on 17th November 2016, issued a direction to examine certain books, documents and other records of Solas-Galway Picture Palace Teoranta for the purpose of determining if inspector[s] should be appointed to investigate the affairs of the charity,” it added.

Element Pictures, which runs the Light House Cinema in Dublin, has taken over project management of the Picture Palace, and has secured a 30-year lease from Galway City Council.

Solas had originally been given the site within the city’s new “cultural quarter” on a peppercorn rent for 99 years.

Ms Doolan said on Thursday that “all we have ever intended to do is to provide Galway with a great arthouse cinema”, which she said she was confident it would have. Expert legal advice had been sought by Solas at every stage, she said.

Stained glass

The project has been hit by difficulties, including receivership and liquidation of the initial contractor, since it was first proposed in 2004. The completed building designed by architect Tom de Paor includes stained glass windows based on artworks donated to Ms Doolan by artist Patrick Scott.

Last year, Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys earmarked more public funding for the project, which is expected to cost just over €9.5 million when complete.

Ms Humphreys’s department is giving €3.737 million, with funders also including the Irish Film Board (€1.06 million), Galway City Council (€2.44 million, including site purchase costs), Element Pictures (€850,000) , the Cultural Cinema Consortium (€766,000), and the Western Development Commission (€650,000).

New contractors Rhatigan are due to complete the fit-out from next week, with a 32-week schedule that takes it beyond Galway’s annual film fleadh.