Galway council threatens to withdraw from cinema project

Local authority delivers ultimatum on the long-delayed €8m arthouse development

The company behind Galway’s long-delayed arthouse cinema has said it is hoping to avert a threat by Galway City Council to pull out of the €8 million project.

Filmmaker Lelia Doolan, of Solas Galway Picture Palace Ltd, said the company was "working to resolve current difficulties".

The statement followed the company’s talks with Galway city manager Brendan McGrath, during which an ultimatum was apparently delivered over the project’s completion.

The development ran into a series of obstacles, mainly related to structural challenges, after the first sod was turned for the cinema in Galway’s Merchant Road area in 2009.


Galway City Council had purchased the site for the project, close to the Galway City Museum and Spanish Arch.

The plan was for three cinema screens, a bar and café, in a building designed by architect Tom de Paor

Last year, Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys granted completion funding for the project of €735,000, in addition to the €2 million already granted by the department, with a condition that the local authority would take over project management.

By this stage, Galway had been awarded the Unesco city of film title, but the arthouse cinema had not opened its doors and was over its €6.2 million budget.

The new arrangement involved Element Pictures investing €850,000 in the project as operator of the cinema.

Outstanding issues

Former Fine Gael mayor Pádraig Conneely, who is chair of the council's strategic policy committee responsible for arts, culture and heritage, has called for the project's outstanding issues to be resolved.

“We have public monies involved here, and yet we understand the backers want a ‘palace’ when there is no more funding available,” he said.

Ms Doolan told The Irish Times she was “mystified by the negative approach” expressed in some quarters, but that she is “full of hope that the Picture Palace will be completed and will be there for the enjoyment of the people of Galway, as intended”.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times