Academic emerges as possible new City of Culture chief

Two roles to be merged into one

A Limerick-based academic and curator has emerged as one of the possible candidates to take over the City of Culture festival on an interim basis following the resignations of its chief executive, Patricia Ryan, and artistic director Karl Wallace.

It is understood Mike Fitzpatrick from the Limerick School of Art and Design is being considered to take over both positions temporarily pending permanent appointments.

While not naming anyone, City of Culture chairman Pat Cox yesterday raised the possibility that one person may take over the roles left open by the resignations.

“We need to have a discussion about what is the nature of the post,” Mr Cox said. “Do we want two posts or one? We need to have some discussion about this to get the balance right. I want to hear people out, good people.”


Mr Fitzpatrick did not return calls last night and a City of Culture spokesman said no decisions had been made yet. However, it was stressed that Mr Cox met a range of candidates.

Sources said Mr Fitzpatrick yesterday met Mr Cox, Limerick city and county manager Conn Murray and Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) president Maria Hinfelaar. The school of art and design is part of LIT.

Local sources also speculated last night that Sheila Deegan, the arts officer with Limerick City Council, could also be appointed in a senior role.

Limerick City of Culture is expected to announce interim arrangements, as well as how it will fill the vacancies permanently, later today. The organisation’s board met last night to decide how to proceed.

Mr Cox has already said he would not step aside and the spokesman said details on how the organisation would carry on after its current controversies would be revealed today.

The spokesman said members of the board were in contact with each other throughout yesterday, in advance of their meeting last night.

He said they were focusing on how to deal with “resource challenges” currently facing the programme, and said they were “examining what the options are and coming up with a range of measures to satisfy the resource challenges that exist at present on both an interim and permanent basis”.

Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan will also meet the board in the coming days, and has promised greater local artistic involvement in the project.

Asked about the controversy surrounding the project, during a trade mission to the Gulf region, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Limerick had a great chance to send out a signal about how it had transformed in recent years.

"I hope the difficulties of the past are now behind Limerick and that they move on with implementing a very strong cultural programme in the interest of everybody," he said. "It's a signal not just about Limerick and the midwest, it's a signal about Ireland and our people."

Mr Cox yesterday said he had nothing to do with the appointment of Ms Ryan, who previously worked as his political assistant, as chief executive.

“She [Ms Ryan] has come to the conclusion that because of the constant, non-stop nature of the criticism – with the peak of it in recent days – that her staying on risked becoming a constant drag on something to which she is deeply committee,” Mr Cox said.

"And her choice to leave reflects a staggering credit on her. She leaves with a great deal of goodwill, with an enormous legacy behind her and in a context where she wanted to say to the board and to the people of Limerick: 'I don't want my leadership undermined and I don't want to be at issue, because the issue is Limerick's city of culture.'"

Hacking claim: No formal complaint

No formal complaint has been made to the Garda over the alleged hacking of the phone belonging to the former chief executive of Limerick City of Culture.

Patricia Ryan, who resigned from her position on Sunday, believes her voicemail mes- sages were hacked as news of her intention to step down was leaked before she had told anyone outside her family.

A spokesman for Henry Street Garda station confirmed she spoke to detectives about the issue yesterday. However, no complaint was made.

“As there was no complaint there is no investigation,” explained the spokesman.

The official City of Culture Facebook page was also intercepted at the weekend after an unauthorised message was posted on the site calling for board resignations.