Ambitious cultural plans outlined for Galway by McGrath

Galway City Council’s chief executive Brendan McGrath has big plans for the city.

Galway City Council’s chief executive Brendan McGrath has big plans for the city.

The chief executive of the Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, will be “canonised” if he manages to implement all his plans to improve the city’s cultural offering.

This is according to Renmore councillor Terry O Flaherty who was speaking after Mr McGrath detailed an ambitious list of plans to enhance Galway’s bid for the 2020 European Capital of Culture.

Last month the Government officially announced an open competition for an Irish city to be selected for the prestigious title. The Irish city and a Croatian city will jointly hold the 2020 designation. Galway will be competing with previous title holders Dublin and Limerick, while a joint bid is also expected from a number of counties in the south east. Bids are due to be submitted by mid October and the winning city will be announced in late summer/early autumn 2016.

Speaking at Monday’s council meeting, Mr McGrath declared 2015 was going to be a hugely important year for Galway. He said one of the reasons Galway did not succeed in its previous bid to be crowned Capital of Culture in 2005 was a lack of infrastructure.

“There is a need for a visual art space in the city, along with a multi-purpose performance space, which can double as a large conference facility.

“Thirdly there is a demand for a modern headquarters for the city library. The rent for the current library premises is currently costing €300,000 per year which is dead money in my opinion.

“We are having discussions to see how these various projects can be advanced. A steering group is examining existing facilities and agreeing on a programme to upgrade the infrastructure.”

Mr McGrath listed other cultural projects he would like to see prioritised, including the upgrade of Comerford House at Spanish Arch, and major works at Galway museum. He also cited the completion of the arthouse cinema project as of the greatest importance and said a number of other council-owned properties on Merchants Road could be developed for use by artists.  

“Let’s not fool ourselves, all of this will require millions of euro. We put €500,000 into the Capital of Culture bid this year, but it is only a drop in the ocean compared to what we need. There is a huge programme of work to be done, funding will not come from one specific source, and we will be looking to various Government departments as well as Europe. We will make the plans first, then start rattling a lot of different cages seeking money.’’

Fine Gael councillor Padraig Conneely said the chief executive’s vision for the city’s cultural offering was very welcome. “We are many years waiting for that kind of statement of intent. You are talking in millions here this evening and I really hope you are successful in securing funding for these worthwhile projects.’’

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