LIMERICK City and Council have voted to give a €150,000 loan to the GAA to stage a major cultural event in the Gaelic Grounds in September, which it is estimated will generate €6 million for the local economy.
Plans have been finalised for the National Geographic show which celebrates 130 years of National Geographic images, set to a background of music.
‘Symphony for Our World ‘ is the European premiere of the show that will feature an 80 piece orchestra and visuals of everything from ice-diving foxes to hammerhead sharks.
Members of the council were told at their meeting last Monday that the loan is subject to a legal agreement and has to be repaid by the end of the year.
The vote sets a precedent as this is the first time the local authority has advanced such a loan to a local organisation.
Independent councillor, John Gilligan said, “If it was Ed Sheeran, I would have no problem. I know we would get our money back but I’ve never heard of this before. We’re giving the GAA €150,000. I’ve been asking for things that cost €25 and I can’t get them but I do support the GAA”.
Cllr Daniel Butler (FG) said: ” this is a real coup to get the European showcase opening event and I would urge everyone in Limerick to support the event.”
Cllr John Loftus (Ind) said, “I think this will be spectacular but why are we putting €150,000 into it?
“Remember the LEAF proposal for an electronic festival in the run-up to St Patrick’s Day last year? That was a good proposal but a lot of people didn’t support that, yet we’re giving the same amount to this? “
Cllr Eleanor Hogan congratulated the GAA on the initiative. “National Geographic has very high standards and I hope it will encourage a lot of people to come into the city,” she added.
Cllr Stephen Keary (FG) urged caution. “Every organisation who make a pitch will feel they have the same entitlement. The local authority is not a banker and we need a failsafe mechanism to be put in place. I would like to be sure that loan is going to be repaid”.
Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon (FF) said there is “great credit due to the GAA in Limerick for having the imagination and courage to facilitate this event”.
Cllr Vivienne Crowley it was “a brilliant initiative to bring something like this so close to the city centre,” while Cllr Frankie Daly (Ind) described the initiative as “a precedent but a brave one”.
Mayor James Collins also welcomed the decision.
“In May this year, I called for the establishment of a concert task force in Limerick after the city was ignored by Ed Sheeran in a nationwide tour that took in Cork, Galway, Dublin and Belfast. I said then that we were missing out on €20 million a year in revenue.
“I have since met with key stakeholders interested in bringing concerts to Limerick and one of the proposals that came out of the task force was this idea of a refundable contribution.
“The idea was the sum made available by the Council to the National Geographic Concert would be recycled into this fund to promote other major concerts and events for the city.
“The National Geographic International Symphony event in the Gaelic Grounds will be worth in the region of €6 million to the local economy,” he added.
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