Limerick City of Culture director quits hours into 2014 programme

By Jimmy Woulfe
Limerick's City of Culture artistic director, Karl Wallace, and two of his team have quit their posts.

The shock resignation may be a "blessing in disguise", the chairman of the organisation's board Pat Cox has claimed.

Mr Wallace, along with legacy programmer Maeve McGrath and international programme manager Jo Mangan, quit the organisation today, hours after the year of culture commenced with New Year's Eve concerts in the city centre.

This is the second major crisis to hit the event.

There are unconfirmed reports that legal advice was taken prior to the resignations.

State funding of €6m has been approved by the Government to the year of culture.

The appointment of Mr Cox's former European Parliament assistant, Patricia Ryan as chief executive on November 4, without the post being advertised has been strongly criticised.

Ms Ryan admitted she had no experience of cultural management or working in the arts industry.

Following his resignation, Mr Wallace said there had been a break down in communication between his team and Ms Ryan.

Mr Wallace said: "We are experts in our fields, we manage budgets, we manage artistic structures, we know what we are doing. My concern was that the programme team was being sidelined in key decisions about how the programme should be delivered."

He said he was not even consulted about the first major event on New Year's Eve night.

Mr Wallace said: "The event was nothing to do with me, it was given to an events management company."

Chairman Pat Cox said if there were problems which were not addressed, the chances were they would pay a bigger price later.

Mr Cox said: "At the end of the day, people have made choices. I thank them for the work they've done. I acknowledge that work; and it does impact on the quality of the programme and it is a quality programme and I thank them for that artistic input.

"But in the end, if people are dissatisfied they have every right to step back and I respect the right to do it and I thank them for the contribution they have made.

"But it may be in the end a blessing in disguise that, if something needed to be dealt with and the matter is behind us, and that we move on to focus on the essentials and on the central issue as it has been and remains for the board to deliver the best year we can for Limerick and for Ireland."

Mr Cox said he wants the drama to be confined to the various event centres during the year of culture.

He said: "I am certain I speak for the entire board that we will deliberate on this in the calmest way and we will move on, confident that we have the capacity to deliver on an excellent programme with some more to follow, not already announced, and I am certain we will do that."

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