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Government had concerns over Picture Palace cinema

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The Government raised concerns about the economic viability of the Picture Palace cinema as long ago as 2012, urging the promoters of the project to scale the development back, newly released documents have revealed.

Work has once again stalled on the city’s cultural cinema, which is running more than €2 million over budget and remains under construction seven years after building first commenced.

Doubts have now been cast on whether the cinema will be economically sustainable when it eventually opens its doors, after it emerged that the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht questioned the viability of the project as early as 2012.

The Department also advocated that the cultural cinema should have been planned as a multipurpose facility, questioning whether the demand for art-house film would make the project economically sustainable.

The business plan for the Picture Palace addresses the issue of demand by citing a 14-year-old Arts Council report under a section entitled “Proven Need for Cultural Cinema in Galway”.

The financial projections contained in the business plan are based on a minimum of 63 film screenings each week and minimum weekly attendances of 1,722 people. This is based on 25% seat occupancy, although the plan states that a higher rate of admissions would be anticipated in practice.

In total, a minimum of 87,822 tickets would need to be sold during a full year in order to ensure the cinema’s viability, which would also rely on annual profits of up to €75,000 from its café and €40,000 from advertising on screens and programmes.

In an email sent to public representatives on June 19, 2012 Chairperson of Solas Galway Picture Palace Ltd Lelia Doolan reported: “Today we were informed that the Department is raising questions about the economic viability of the Picture Palace, suggesting that it should have been planned as a multipurpose facility.

“Conversely, it appears that they also believe that the building should be scaled back,” wrote Ms Doolan.

Asked whether market research in relation to demand for cultural cinema in Galway was still reliable, given that it was carried out years before the economic downturn, Ms Doolan said there were still encouraging signs.

“Projections for cultural cinema-going remain steady, given the continuous Irish support (€104.1m in income in 2015), increase in Irish Film Centre and Lighthouse entries, the packed houses for Galway Film Society and the success of the Galway Film Fleadh (17,476 admissions over five days last year) and have enabled Solas to attract Element Pictures, who run the Lighthouse, to come on board as operators of the Picture Palace,” he said.

Former TD Jimmy Deenihan, who was Arts Minister when the Department raised questions about the viability of the cinema, described the project as complex and sensitive.

“It was a complex project that I inherited and I tried to steer it through towards completion as best I could,” he said.

“My officials acted very responsibly and carefully to protect the taxpayer as much as possible in relation to the project. At all times, that was my priority and I was very concerned to protect the taxpayer and, at the same time, I wanted it to be completed. I was trying to balance both.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Changes to garda structure require ‘feet on the ground’

Francis Farragher

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STRUCTURAL changes in Garda management – which will see the current Western Region merged with the Northern area – need to be backed up with ‘feet on the ground’, according to the Chairperson of the city’s Joint Policing Committee.

Cllr Niall McNelis said he also had concerns over the impact that a reduction in Garda Superintendents and Chief Superintendents could have on the management of the force across the Galway region.

“I know that the stated intention of the Commissioner [Drew Harris] is to increase the frontline presence of Gardaí but this cannot be achieved without more feet on the ground.

“There also has to be concerns over an apparent lack of consultation on the changes with Garda Superintendents who really play a key role in managing the Garda resources at local level,” said Cllr McNelis.

He added that in the aftermath of the financial crash in Ireland, Garda resources – both in terms of personnel and equipment – had taken a huge hit, with this ‘lost ground’ still not being made up.

“The bottom line in all of this is: will we see more Gardaí on the beat; more Gardaí operating at local level and in touch with local people; and also a management structure that’s in touch with local communities?” Cllr McNelis asked.

One of the major changes announced by Commissioner Drew Harris is a reduction in the number of national Garda regions across the country from six to four, each one under the control of an Assistant Commissioner.  The Western Garda Region – that had consisted of Galway, Clare, Roscommon/Longford and Mayo – will now be merged into one region amalgamating with the North.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Traffic gridlock – specialist traffic control operator at City Hall among proposed solutions

Francis Farragher

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THE city came close to complete gridlock on last Tuesday with a combination of minor accidents, roadworks, visitor numbers, an influx of shoppers and bad weather, making it a nightmare afternoon and evening for motorists.

Eyre Square, College Road, Lough Atalia, the Moneenagheisha junction and the dual-carriageway leading up to the Briarhill traffic-lights, endured the most severe clog-ups, but commuters across the city reported long delays from lunchtime through to the later evening period.

Former Mayor of Galway and taxi-operator, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that by early afternoon he had to abandon his efforts to continue working.

“I know that there was a huge volume of traffic in the city due to back-to-school shoppers and there were also reports of a number of minor accidents, but I still think that we can do better in terms of managing the flow of vehicles.

“The roadworks in Bohermore were no help and there were reports of a number of minor accidents but we also have real problems with parking and signage issues in the city.

“And most of all, we need a hands-on specialist traffic control operator – experienced and skilled in traffic management – in the control room at City Hall, to monitor flows at all our key junctions,” said Cllr Fahy.

Public transport also got completely bogged down in the Tuesday evening snarl-up with bus commuters from the city to Oranmore reporting a journey time of close on one hour and 20 minutes.

Buses took up to 20 minutes to make it from their stops in Eyre Square to even get onto College Road which had almost ground to a complete standstill at around 5.30pm.

Another motorist told the Galway City Tribune that his journey time from Forster Street to the Briarhill junction was one hour and 50 minutes on Tuesday evening – 4.10pm to 6pm.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

2020 still far short of private funding target

Dara Bradley

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Galway 2020, the company set-up to deliver the European Capital of Culture next year, remains well behind on its target of raising €6.75 million in private funding.

Making Waves, the bid book that won Galway the designation, committed Galway 2020 to raising income totalling €6.75 million from private sponsors and philanthropists.

The bid book specified that this was income to be spent on operating expenditure for the year-long programme of events.

With less than a month to go before the official programme is unveiled, Galway 2020 declined this week to confirm how much money it has raised through sponsorship.

Galway 2020 has consistently said that it intends to raise €6.75m in sponsorship; and this figure has been quoted in several briefing documents prepared for Culture Minister Josepha Madigan, which were released to the Galway City Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

A briefing note for Minister Madigan dated April 10, 2019, under the heading, ‘philanthropy’, mentioned that some €133,477 had been received in total by Galway 2020 in sponsorship and in-kind support as of December 31, 2018.

In March 2019, a financial report by Galway 2020, confirmed that the company had raised less than €30,000 in private sponsorship income last year. This suggests that some €100,000 of the total raised last year, was in-kind.

When asked to clarify how much cash it has raised from sponsorship, minus in-kind support, Galway 2020 said its “fundraising target hasn’t changed”.

“The current value of the fundraising and partnerships pipeline is €4.5m – this includes a combination of commercial as well as trusts and foundations, comprising funds already committed, proposals submitted and further partnerships that are under consideration. These proposals and agreements are a combination of cash and in-kind support,” it said.

Galway 2020 declined to elaborate on how much of this €4.5 million “pipeline” was income and how much was in-kind support. It also did not say how much of that “pipeline” is already ‘banked’, and how much was not yet collected.

Included in that €4.5 million figure was a “significant corporate partnership with Medtronic”, which has become the health partner of Galway 2020 and sponsor of its Wave Maker volunteer programme, it said. However, Galway 2020 did not elaborate on the cash value – as opposed to any in-kind value – of that agreement, which was announced a fortnight ago.

“The nature of the breakdown of partnership agreements are commercially sensitive to each of our partners,” a spokesperson said.

The sole mention of the term “in-kind” in the bid book is on page 89, where it states: “The Promotion & Marketing budget described above will be supplemented by in-kind marketing benefit from our supporters, strategic partners & producers.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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