Limerick is in uproar in a storm over its role as the Irish Republic’s first City of Culture.
The Chief Executive Officer Patricia Ryan, a former top aide to Pat Cox when he was president of the European Parliament and to Mary Harney when she was health minister, resigned on Sunday.
Her resignation followed furore over her appointment to the €120,000 18-month post without competition or it being advertised.
A few days earlier the artistic director Karl Wallace and two leading members of his team, international programmer Jo Mangan and commissioning and legacy programmer Maeve McGrath, quit their posts. They complained they were sidelined in decision-making and left out of preparations for the city’s New Year’s Eve culture carnival.
Following on Ryan’s resignation as CEO she spoke to Gardaí (police) about concerns her phone may have been hacked.
Gardai said she spoke to detectives at Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick about the issue on Monday. She made a statement but not a formal complaint.
“As there was no complaint there is no investigation,” the spokesperson said.
Cox, who is chairman of the board of City of Culture and who has denied Ryan was appointed to her post on his initiative, said he felt that at a public meeting last Friday there was “an extraordinary level of personal anger and hostility vented at her.” He said he was deeply sorry to have seen that.
Local artistic leaders have claimed there was a suspicion of political strokery behind Ryan’s appointment when there should have been competition for it because the salary was paid by the taxpayer.
Others have claimed there was downright local jealousy at the appointment.
Irrespective of who or what may have been to blame, the role of Limerick as a City of Culture has been a shambles during its first week.
The 20th anniversary world tour of Riverdance, composed by Limerick native Bill Whelan, is due to start in the city on January 16.
It is unlikely that a new permanent chief executive or new artistic director – or one person to do both jobs, as Cox proposed this week – will be appointed before Riverdance departs.
Academic and arts curator Mike Fitzpatrick, head of the Limerick School of Art and Design, was appointed on Tuesday as interim head of the Limerick City of Culture project. He is likely to serve for up to a period of 10 weeks while a permanent replacement is sought.
Cox said he was “determined to do everything I can and we can to hit the reset button to put together in place the necessary resources.”