Victory for Transparency. City of Culture Emerges Stronger After Appointments Row.

Just as the million monkeys with typewriters might eventually bash out a line from Hamlet, so has the City of Culture board managed to stumble onto the one obvious solution that was staring it in the face from the beginning: there’s no need for a CEO. There was never a need for a CEO, since the thing was already led by a professional, but such thinking doesn’t fit comfortably into the mindset of Irish local government.

Limerick city of culture 2014

Fortunately, that’s in the past, and any new artistic director will be completely bullet-proof, since no city manager in his right mind will ever want to touch this thing again.  Conn Murray must be cursing the day he ever heard of the City of Culture, and with every reason, since he seems to have acted in good faith, but it’s never the big things that trip you up.

As a metaphor for post-Ahern Ireland, it could hardly be more apt.  Here was a perception of political cronyism, of closed doors and smoke-filled rooms, and there was a general public, battered and disillusioned after six years of bank scandals and salary top-ups, no longer in any mood to swallow empty jargon, especially of the kind so smoothly dispensed by that quintessential political insider, Pat Cox, chairman of the board.

With his every mention of blessings in disguise and bumps in the road, Cox succeeded in angering the public even more, and it didn’t help that he stuck to his script when it came to hinting that Karl Wallace failed to attend performance reviews in December.  It took a member of the 600-strong crowd in the Clarion hotel to publicly call him on this, as he prepared once more to repeat the innuendo, by pointing out that Karl Wallace was in England at a family funeral and could not have attended whatever inquisition had been prepared for him.

Contrary to what certain elements have been suggesting, this was no mob rule.  This was the sort of cold public anger that Irish people failed to display over the last six years.  This was the outcry that finally, in unambiguous terms, told the men in grey suits that the answer is NO.

No more spin.  No more waffle.  No more thinking that people will swallow any old nonsense.

What actually happened is this: the people of Limerick led the way in showing Ireland that it really is possible to call shenanigans on this sort of thing.  It really is possible to remind officials that their power is strictly limited and that they owe a responsibility to the people they serve to show some respect instead of treating them like half-wits who will believe whatever rubbish is thrown their way.

Mike Fitzpatrick © Deirdre Power
Mike Fitzpatrick                                            © Deirdre Power

The interim appointment of Mike Fitzpatrick, head of the Limerick School of Art and Design, has been welcomed by everyone and properly so, since the project is now being led by an experienced professional, perfectly capable of doing the job until the position is filled in an open and transparent way.

Many Limerick artists stated publicly that they would prefer to tear up their contracts and lose the money rather than be part of a process in which they had no confidence.  Given the precarious nature of art funding, that took considerable courage, and it took even more guts to stand up in front of the very people you think might be able to shaft you and challenge them eyeball to eyeball.  But they did so and it will always be to their credit.

Far from being an unedifying little squabble, as it has been presented in some quarters perhaps by people who sought to gain some advantage, the furore over the Limerick City of Culture project has set down markers for how these things should be done in future: openly, with integrity and without political interference of any kind.


21 thoughts on “Victory for Transparency. City of Culture Emerges Stronger After Appointments Row.

  1. If only the rest of the country would grow some.I believe Pat Cox didn’t want the media present at that meeting.What an arrogant prick.Well done to all concerned.

  2. So we hear. And that’s despite the fact that the meeting was not arranged by Cox or by Limerick city council, yet they tried to run it as if they were in charge.

    That worked out pretty well for them, wouldn’t you say?

  3. I don’t think he saw this coming Bock.I think he fell over the bump in the road,and it was also a blessing in disguise,but not for him.If only the rest of the country would take note and tell these chancers in very short sentences and words what to do with themselves.

  4. Fair play excellent commentary Bock, mike is a good man and will take up the mantle from Karl admirably. Let’s hope all this unites all the genre of artists in limerick and drive 2014 on with gusto and creativity, Noel

  5. there’s no need for a CEO.

    Was that all there was to it after all? Jobs for the boys — and girls of the establishment?

    I was thinking that there may have been an attempt at a cultural coup by the corporate classes in Limierick, shutting out local acts and direction in favour of events companies playing Beethoven and Shakespeare instead.

  6. “Empty jargon….smoothly dispensed”. Very nicely put,an apt description of the only thing Cox and his ilk are good at.

  7. The mindset that created the need for the CEO in this instance is the very same one that created the HSE.

  8. I wish I could agree with the last paragraph, but at this point we still dont know who put that board together.

    It is apparent from the composition of the board that it is peopled mainly by FG apparachiks.

    The process was corrupt from the outset by Limerick being chosen without any consultation. The board was put together without any consultation, the CEO was appointed without any consultation, and now this new head has been appointed without any consultation.

    The people of Limerick have had a half victory. But the media has moved on and we now have the scandal of consultancy fees for new Water Board, also, no doubt, stuffed with political appointments, so move the circus on to the next halting site.

    Nothing, absolutely nothing has changed with this storm in a tea cup. Cox, McHenry et al all still in situ. Patricia Ryan still in situ. I guess its an Irish solution to an Irish problem?

  9. @ Shellshock. I share a level of scepticism regarding comment 10 even though the display of a democratic process at work made by the people of Limerick was most admirable.

    It is my understanding that the new appointee put himself forward and as such was accepted at least as an interim head of operations.

    I do wonder however as it is a large and surely time consuming agenda how can the new appointee in his current position as Head, Principle, whatever the appropriate title is ? of LSAD guarantee the time it will take ti implement the agenda for a year long timetable of events for Limerick City of Culture.

    Maybe that question has been answered elsewhere or maybe he can take leave of absence, I just wonder how one person can carry out such weighty responsibilities at the same time.

    Can I also ask, how do you know Patricia Ryan is still in situ ? Is she just working out a time situation to inform new people or what ?

  10. As I understand it, Mike Fitzpatrick has been seconded by LIT and they will appoint somebody to act in is place while he does the CoC job. This is not unusual. It happens all the time when people go on leave or fall ill, and in any case, he’s not going to Mars. I’m sure he stay in close touch with LSAD.

  11. @birdsinhand

    isn’t she is situ helping the board? And isn’t the board intact with no resignations as a mea culpa for the gombeen way they went about this festival?

    And I still have no idea how or why Cox and McHenry were appointed apart from their links to FG. Particularly for McHenry, on the board of Nama, and the Festival of Culture. Go figure.

    This is a win for gombeenism, only one woman had to be thrown to the wolves, everything else remains the same.

    The best I hope for is that the Limerick folk have inspired others to at least confront the same gombeenism when it presented to them.

  12. I think it was a reasonable question regarding MF’s balancing of two weighty roles, however thank you for the albeit somewhat cryptic explanation.

    @ Shellshock. I honestly have no idea what if any function PR has on the board presently but I totally agree with you on the wonderment as to how people become appointed to Boards and Committees in this Country, well no wonder at all then.

    Good on the people of Limerick here’s hoping the ripples will serve as an example to other’s feeling the frustration of tribal moves cloaked in the guise of the greater good.

  13. There’s nobody called McHenry on the board. At the very minimum people are entitled to the courtesy of having their names spelt correctly.

  14. His name is Brian McEnery.

    The fact you took the time to write that you believe he is entitled to any courtesy bar tarring and feathering is hilarious. The funny and quaint insistence on courtesy. Reminds me of the oldies vilified for bad manners when they shouted at a government minister. What in the world is happening, someones name is mis spelt, its the end of civilisation as we know it.

    Do you know who or why that board was appointed? Of course you don’t, nobody does.

  15. from Nama website:

    Mr. Brian McEnery
    Board member (appointed 22 December 2009 for a 4-year term)

    Chairperson of the Audit Committee
    Member of the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee

    Brian McEnery (FCCA) specializes in corporate rescue and insolvency and is a partner in a leading firm of accountants and business advisors and practices in Limerick and Dublin. He is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and a council member of ACCA. In 2010 he was the President of ACCA Ireland. He is a director of the Consultative Committee of Accounting Bodies (CCAB) and serves on its insolvency committee in Ireland.

    From the HIQA website:

    Brian McEnery is a Partner in BDO Accountants and Business Advisors and operates out of the firm’s offices in Dublin and Limerick. Brian is one of the
    firm’s corporate restructuring and recovery partners and is also one of the firm’s healthcare consulting partners.

    Brian has been an advisor in the older person care sector for the last 17 years and for many years has edited the Nursing Home Ireland annual nursing home survey. Brian previously produced the report “A Fair Price for Care – Ireland” onbehalf of Age Action Ireland. Brian previously worked as a care assistant in a UK older person dementia care home, while studying to be an accountant.

    Brian has acted as advisor to primary care centres, acute care facilities and older person care centres throughout Ireland, and has a broad range of healthcare experience from both a financial and operational perspective.

    Brian is a former President of ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) Ireland and is an ACCA Global Council member. Brian is a memberof the Board of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

    From the Irish Times:

    Shareholders yesterday appointed Brian McEnery of BDO as receiver to troubled telecoms company Intune, which has an estimated €10 million deficit between assets and liabilities.
    The company is letting go about 70 workers from its Dublin and Belfast offices in a round of compulsory redundancies it announced internally in October.
    Yesterday it told staff in Dublin who are losing their jobs this week it would not be able to pay either their wages for this month, or their statutory redundancy entitlements, as the company is insolvent and had to be placed in receivership.

    And another board:

    Brian McEnery specialises in corporate finance, and is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and one of the founding partners of Limerick firm of Accountants & Business Advisors – Horwath Bastow Charleton, based in the Red Church in Henry Street, Limerick.

    A native of Rathkeale, Brian specialises in Healthcare consulting and Corporate Recovery in which he has extensive experience and has been involved with numerous high profile cases and clients.

    He is one of the leading business rescue and insolvency advisers in the country, contributing regularly to national publications and delivering seminars across the country on behalf of various accountancy bodies.

    Brian established a dedicated business rescue department ten years ago and has held a vast range of insolvency positions, including Receiver, Manager and Liquidator, and has a great deal of experience in dealing with the Corporate Enforcement and ODCE aspects of insolvency cases. He deals with various technical and emerging issues in his preparation and submission of Liquidators’ reports to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement under Section 56 and s150 declarations.


    An experienced Examiner, Brian has successfully restructured a number of medium-sized enterprises enabling them to trade out of their difficulties, and in 2004, Brian was appointed Examiner by the High Court to a large construction company, which he successfully restructured under the Examinership legislation introduced in the Companies Act 1990.

    Brian was elected President of ACCA Ireland for 2008/2009 and is a member of the ACCA’s Global Council. Brian is a member of the Insolvency Committee of the CCAB-I (Consultative Committee of Accounting Bodies – Ireland), a member of the London Court of International Arbitration, a member of the Turnaround Management Association and The Institute for Turnaround.

    Brian is the national adviser to INHO (Irish Nursing Homes Organisation) and regularly undertakes a variety of assignments on behalf of clients in the Healthcare sector. He has held a number of directorships including semi-state companies, and was recently appointed to the board of NAMA (the National Assets Management Agency).

    One can see why he would be such a suitable member to on the board of a festial of culture. NOT.

    But ex election FG agents must be paid I guess.

  16. Shellshock, don’t lecture me about courtesy. I removed your potentially defamatory description of Brian McEnery. Have the courtesy in future not to do things like that.

  17. Dont make me laugh. Defamation? A look at his list of board memberships, says more about him then I ever could.

  18. I’m not trying to make you laugh. I’m telling you that this website is not going to publish stupid remarks that might be actionable.

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