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Galway City Council ‘half commits’ to funding hike for arts sector


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway City Council ‘half commits’ to funding hike for arts sector Galway City Council ‘half commits’ to funding hike for arts sector

From the Galway City Tribune – Galway arts groups have been provided with €400,000 in funding in this year’s City Council Arts Grants programme – with councillors “kind of half-committing” to an increase next year.

At a meeting of the local authority last week, councillors approved the payment of the grants – of which just under €370,000 for professional organisations and a further €30,000 for groups in the community, voluntary and amateur sectors.

Head of Economic Development, Community and Culture at City Hall, Gary McMahon, told councillors that the manner in which grants were being decided was undergoing a revamp, with a new weighting system deciding eligibility based on factors including quality; engagement; and equality, diversity and inclusion.

The total amount available this year was the same as last year, he said, but the number of applicants and successful applications had increased.

“Last year, we had 65 applicants and 57 were successful. This year, there were 79 applicants and 65 are proposed for funding by the Arts Advisory Committee,” he said before councillors approved the payments.

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Mr McMahon said Galway City Council provided significant funding to the arts every year.

“If you take into consideration all elements, including the museum, we are somewhere in the region of €6 million per year, which is substantially more than other local authorities that would see themselves as cultural competitors of ours,” he said.

Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab) agreed that the City Council provided a huge amount of funding for the arts, but that more was required for a sector the city promotes itself off the back of.

“We should be seriously looking at allocating extra money for them,” said Cllr McNelis.

Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said Cllr McNelis was part of the ruling pact and should support a motion to more than double the arts grants funding in the 2024 budget which he proposed.

“My view is that we should allocate €850,000 in the 2024 budget to Gary’s [McMahon] office and I’ve no doubt they’ll be glad of it,” he said.

The motion was seconded by Cllr McNelis. However, concerns were expressed by other members of the pact that this move would “tie the hands” of the Council Executive in preparing the budget – the process for which doesn’t begin until summer.

Cllr Crowe disputed this and said the budget was a reserved function of councillors and if they voted to increase the funding for arts, it was up to the Executive to find a way of doing that.

“It is €400,000 out of a budget of €90 million,” he said.

Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind) said the Council budget this year would require a “substantial contribution” for the move to Crown Square.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) proposed an amendment to Cllr Crowe’s motion that would, instead of committing to a figure, “consider increasing” the arts grants budget.

Cllr Crowe said this was nowhere close to a commitment, adding: “It’s hard to understand how these lads ever got married – they’re kind of half-committing.”

Cllr McDonnell’s amended motion won the support of the majority of councillors.

Meanwhile, there was criticism of a number of groups that receive City Council funding but fail to advertise the fact, with Cllr Lyons insisting that those in receipt of local authority money should be compelled to let the public know.

“There is a hell of a lot of money spent on the arts in Galway City Council,” he said.

Mr McMahon said there were a number of organisations “reluctant” to publicly acknowledge that they got money from City Hall.

“It’s an issue we raise rigorously and regularly with them,” he said.

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