Funding cut for writers' centre

 

Madam, – The article of January 15th on the Irish Writers’ Centre quotes the current director as saying that when he took over in 2003 most of the centre’s income came from the Arts Council. A quick search of the Companies Office records would have established otherwise.

It took me five minutes online to remind myself that in 2002, when I was still director of the centre, the Arts Council grant represented 49 per cent of turnover, which is a long way from “almost totally reliant on Arts Council funding”.

Considerable income was, in fact, derived from the centre’s activities.

The suggestion that the current director inherited an inactive centre and turned it into a thriving cultural enterprise is, to say the least of it, an exaggeration.

Among other concerns, the Arts Council is quoted as finding current core staff costs for the organisation high, at €237,550 for four staff members. Why is the director so shy about the distribution of that sum?

The council’s polite reference to the salary structure at the Writers’ Centre, and the refusal of the director to discuss his remuneration with the Irish Times reporter has raised eyebrows in literary circles — and questions for the board.

Surely an arts organisation which spends almost 60 per cent of its turnover on its staff is not an obvious example of best practice in these hard-pressed times.

I spent 11 years of my life running the Irish Writers’ Centre so it gives me no joy to witness the withdrawal of its funding, but the article makes clear that the Arts Council has been unhappy with the output of the centre for some years and that the decision was not reached hastily.

Rather than flim-flam about the million hits on the website and the 9,000 phone calls received (who counts them, and who cares?), I think we need to know more about the “core concerns” that led to the council’s decision. – Yours, etc,

PETER SIRR,

Greenville Avenue,

Dublin 8.

Madam, – The Arts Council has recently terminated all funding to The Irish Writers’ Centre, an important national institution for the support, development and promotion of writers and writing.

While we acknowledge that cuts are inevitable in the present economic downturn, this decision is nevertheless disturbing. It comes at the end of a notably successful year for the centre, a year which has seen audience numbers and the centre’s participation in the country’s literary culture at an all-time high.

We therefore strongly urge that this decision be reversed and funding for the work of a thriving cultural organisation (€200,000 in 2008) be reinstated urgently.

List of signatories: John Banville; Sebastian Barry; Maeve Binchy; Dermot Bolger; John Boyne; Liam Browne; Ciaran Carson; Prof DanielleClarke, UCD; Harry Clifton; Dr Steve Coleman, NUI Maynooth; Kevin Crossley-Holland; Philip Cummings; Peter Cunningham; John F Deane; Celia De Fréine; Roddy Doyle; Paul Durcan; Anne Enright; Prof Tadhg Foley, NUI Galway; Richard Ford; David Gardiner, Director, Creighton University Press; Prof Luke Gibbons, University of Notre Dame; Hugo Hamilton; Dr Derek Hand, St Patrick’s College, Dublin; Kerry Hardie; Sean Hardie; Jack Harte; Aidan Higgins; Alannah Hopkin; Jerzy Jarniewicz; Prof Margaret Kelleher, NUI, Maynooth; Claire Kilroy and Edna Longley, Professor Emerita, QUB; Michael Longley, Ireland Professor of Poetry; Deirdre Madden; Derek Mahon; Prof Kerby A Miller, University of Missouri; Prof Sean Moore, University of New Hampshire; Paul Muldoon; Éilis NÍ Dhuibhne; Dr Clare O’Halloran, University College Cork; Sean O’Brien; Joseph O’Connor; Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin (“Cormac Millar”); Timothy O’Grady; Glenn Patterson; Justin Quinn; Ian Sansom; Will Self; Matthew Sweeney; Prof Lawrence Taylor, NUI Maynooth; Alan Titley; Shaun Traynor; Prof Kevin Whelan, Director, Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, Dublin; Jonathan Williams. – Yours, etc,

IAN OLIVER,

Communications Manager,

Irish Writers’ Centre,

Parnell Square,

Dublin 1.