Council threatens to pull the plug on arthouse cinema

The unfinished Picture Palace cinema on Lower Merchants Road.

The city’s jinxed €8m arthouse cinema project was plunged into a fresh crisis this week as Galway City Council threatened to withdraw funding for its completion amidst new controversy.

The Picture Palace remains under construction seven years after work first began in 2009, while the state-funded project is running approximately €2 million over its original €6.2 million budget.

The unfinished structure on Lower Merchants Road has been described as a “pantheon of mismanagement and waste” by Fine Gael Councillor Padraig Conneely, who has called for radical action to bring the project to a conclusion.

Construction work stalled after the company behind the project, Solas Galway Picture Palace Ltd, signed a €4.1m public works contract with a builder without departmental consent or adequate funds in place to cover the costs.

A final injection of €1m in additional funding was thought to have secured the cinema’s completion last August when it was announced by Galway City Council and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The allocation was made conditional on the Council taking over responsibility for management of project from Solas, which is headed by the veteran film-maker Lelia Doolan.

It has now emerged that Galway City Council is poised to withdraw its €232,000 portion of the funding following new difficulties with the project. This would also result in the loss of €735,000 in funding from the Department, which is contingent on the local authority’s contribution.

The Chief Executive of the Council communicated this to Solas in a letter issued after a meeting on Wednesday of the local authority’s Special Policy Committee (SPC) on Arts, Heritage and Culture; which is chaired by Cllr Conneely

The letter, which was delivered to Solas yesterday, stated that the local authority’s support for the project would be debated at next Monday’s meeting with a view to withdrawing funding, unless the current impasse can be resolved over the weekend.

For more on the latest threat to the project, see this week’s Galway City Tribune