Festival funding creates rift between city and county councillors

Cllr John Egan, Fine Gael. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

MONEY can often be the cause of friction and argument in relationships.

And, at this Monday’s full meeting of the local authority, the love story of two amalgamated Councils that said ‘I do’ back in 2014 looked like it might be on the rocks when the subject of finances was raised.

Councillors were informed that total funding for the Festivals and Events Grant Scheme 2023/2024 is €208,000. The value of the Limerick City and County Council contribution to the grant scheme is €184,000, they were informed, with a contribution of €24,000 from Fáilte Ireland. A total of 34 applications were received by the local authority with a total of €561,348.

Fine Gael councillor John Egan hit out that 90 per cent of the funding for these festivals seemed to see the money going to the city, with only 10 per cent going to the county.

Cllr Egan appealed to council management to get more of a balance into where funding for festivals is allocated.

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“Small towns like Kilmallock, Abbeyfeale, and Newcastle West are totally underfunded. You need to look at that and make sure 90 per cent of the funding isn’t for the city,” he opined.

Cllr Liam Galvin (FG) was happy for the city to get their fair share but took the view that the funding for the three county municipal districts was not fair.

“If we want to be representative of this local authority, a united local authority, let’s be fair to us all. The money that was divided there for festivals is not fair. It is not representative of the council that I am sitting on. If you go back to the minutes of the same meeting last year, you will see that rural councillors brought up the same issue,” Cllr Galvin said.

Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheahan told the council executive that there are very successful festivals being run in Askeaton on a regular basis.

“I don’t like doing this but I endorse what Liam Galvin has said, not because Liam Galvin said it, but I don’t like being involved in any kind of split between the city and the county.

“The councillors are not splitting it. The executive have to be careful that you are making us sensitive to what’s happening. Maybe we need to have a fund of half of it. That’s the only way this will be addressed,” Cllr Sheahan insisted.

“I am suggesting now to the executive that you want to get the estimates through. That’s not a threat, but don’t aggravate us for no reason whatsoever.”

Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary felt it was obvious that the two amalgamated authorities are not compatible.

“We would have been far better off if we remained in the county. We had a far better structure. We had good rates. They were very glad to get our rates here in the city. I know we’ve gone too far now and we can’t roll it back but we have to live together as best we can,” he said.

Independent councillor Eddie Ryan told council members that he didn’t want to go back beyond 2014 and the amalgamation of the two local authorities.

“We have had all this debate. We are one local authority. If you haven’t applied for the funding don’t crib about not getting it,” he concluded.