Heather Humphreys defends decision to further fund Galway arthouse cinema

Project founder Lelia Doolin says aim was to create “civic facility” for people of Galway

 

Heather Humphreys has defended her decision to commit further public funding to a proposed arthouse cinema in Galway.

The Minister for Arts said yesterday she inherited a project that had seen significant cost overruns and difficulties, but was faced with a situation where she could either let the €6 million already invested “sit in a shell in the centre of Galway city, an eyesore” or invest a further €1 million.

She was speaking in an interview with RTÉ television’s Prime Time broadcast last night.

Figures released by her department show it has already given €1.9 million towards the long-running project, and committed a further €1.5 million.

The overall project, almost entirely funded by public money, is expected to cost €9.24 million before it is complete. A sum of €6.14 million has already been spent.

Liquidation

Lelia DoolanLabourGalway WestMichael D Higgins

The cinema has been promoted by Solas-Galway Picture Palace Teoranta, which was incorporated in 2007.

In June 2012, the former minister for the arts Jimmy Deenihan sent a letter to Ms Doolan saying his department could not allocate any more money to the project and that the €3.25 million already allocated by then was very significant.

Ms Doolan told The Irish Times that what she and supporters wished to do was to create a civic facility for people to see independent film in Galway – a UNESCO city of film. She said architect Tom de Paor had created a “beautiful building” which would “bring life, energy and enjoyment”to the town.

Ms Doolan, who noted she dealt with six different arts ministers during the lifetime of the project, confirmed she secured a donation of windows by artist Patrick Scott to the building.

Non-compliance

It was agreed at that stage that a new project management model was required for the completion of the project.

On Sunday, July 10th, Ms Humphreys announced that Element Pictures would be taking over the management, completion and operation of the Picture Palace in Galway and that she was approving a final funding injection of €255,000 from her department to complete the fit-out of the cinema.

Element Pictures is one of Ireland’s most successful film production companies – its recent productions include Room and The Lobster – and runs the Lighthouse cinema in Dublin. The Galway cinema will be open to the public by mid-2017, Ms Humphreys said.

The Irish Film Board has contributed or pledged a total of €1 million, while Element Pictures is committed to investing €850,000, the department’s figures show. A further €766,598 came from a fund set up by the department and the film board, while the Western Development Commission gave a €650,000 loan which the city council says it is repaying.