Support and scepticism from county councillors for Galway 2020 bid

Galway county councillors have backed the city’s bid for the European Capital of Culture at a meeting on Monday following an update on the project from the bid team.

Galway 2020 project manager Patricia Philbin informed the county council of the progress of the city’s bid as well as key upcoming dates in the competition which sees Galway city and county vying for the ECoC 2020 title against Limerick and the ‘Three Sisters’ of Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford.

The final bid book will be submitted on June 17 which will then be followed by a visit from the 2020 judges to the city and county on July 11. The final presentation of Galway’s bid will then take place at Dublin Castle on July 14 with the winning city being announced the following day, joining Croatian city Rijeka as the ECoC for 2020.

The potential economic benefits of a successful bid for Galway is huge according to Galway 2020 project team member Mark O’ Donnell. O’Donnell highlighted the success of Liverpool, who held the title in 2008. The Merseyside city and region saw a direct spend of £754 million and a 34 per cent growth in visitors since 2007, amounting to 9.7 million additional visitors and more than 1.4 million extra hotel nights. He believes Galway would have a similar influx of tourists if we can secure the title, “I believe that there will be an increase of 30 to 40 per cent in visitors to the city which translates as one million extra tourists a year by 2020. This title would put Galway on the world stage and would give the city and county huge leverage in obtaining infrastructure.”

There was widespread support in the chamber for the project and many were eager to help out in what way they could to ensure a successful bid.

Councillor Michael Connolly said that Galway has a strong cultural tradition and the 1916 commemoration shows the city and county’s aptitude to host large events, “Galway has always been associated with arts and culture. It is very important that we identify projects and do a good job. Looking at the 1916 celebration, I know we have the ability and capability to harness the event.”

Although Mr Connolly did point out that the whole county should reap the benefits of the event, “ I would like to see it [the project] benefit everyone. The Vovlo Ocean Race benefited the city to the detriment of the county.”

Cllr Mogie Maher said the project was a great opportunity for Galway which would have huge benefits. “The project has brilliant ideas and a brilliant plan to attract visitors. This is brilliant for Galway city and county which has the people engaging and participating.”

Despite the strong support for the Galway 2020 bid at the meeting, there were a few dissenters.

Cllr Tim Broderick argued the bidding had, to date, crucially ignored one of Ireland’s strongest draws; the pub. The Ballinasloe councillor said, “There has been no attention paid to Galway VFI, nil. There must be a level of engagement with the VFI if the bid is to win.”

Cllr Broderick said he found it hard to believe that the county would reap any reward from a successful bid saying the results would be “sucked into city” and pointed to a “distrust between the city and county”.

Cllr Shane Donnellan said the Galway 2020 message is not getting out to the county. “If the judges came today, the people of Loughrea would struggle to have the information.” Although Cllr Donnellan stated his support for the bid and would provide the necessary help and services in getting Loughrea in line with the project.

However Cllr Joe Bynre suggested that councillors themselves should be getting out into their own community and selling the project. “There is an onus on the councillors to sell it on behalf of Galway 2020. We have a great opportunity to get out into the communitites to tell people about the Galway 2020. Let us all get out there. Let us sell Galway 2020.”

To find out how you can get involved in the Galway 2020 bid visit www.galway2020.ie/get-involved

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