The surviving mayors of Galway city have this week stated their committment to becoming ambassadors for the embattled Galway 2020 project. With less than 50 weeks until the city becomes the official European Capital of Culture, the group of mayors have promised to do all they can to ensure that the project is a resounding success.
There is speculation that the meetings of the former mayors will become a regular event and that they will be asked to lend their political, cultural, and personal experience to benefit the city of which they were all first citizen.
This week, the current Mayor of the city, Labour councillor Niall McNelis met his 17 previous holders of the office, and together they issued a formal ‘Declaration of Support’ to “declare our individual and collective support" to Galway 2020.
This week, the current Mayor of the city, Labour councillor Niall McNelis met his 17 previous holders of the office, and together they issued a formal 'Declaration of Support' to "declare our individual and collective support to Galway 2020", and to commit themselves to be "ambassadors, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally" for 2020. The meeting, hosted by the Mayor, received an update on current issues for the city and city council from chief executive Brendan McGrath, and on developments around Galway 2020 from CEO Patricia Philbin.
'We commit our experience, knowledge and imaginations to build a lasting legacy towards a sustainable cultural, social and economic future for our city'
Despite the fanfare that greeted the awarding of the European Capital of Culture title to Galway in 2016, the project has had a turbulent time since. It has seen the departure of creative director Chris Baldwin and chief executive Hannah Kiely; a number of planned projects for 2020 have been informed of budgets being cut; while towards the end of last year, Macnas, Music for Galway, Galway Community Circus, Galway Film Fleadh, Fibín, Blue Teapot, and Branar Theatre Company sought an urgent meeting with the chief executives of Galway city and county councils to raise concerns about creative vision, funding shortfalls, poor communication, and VAT registration for projects over a certain size.
As well as acting for ambassadors for 2020, the declaration also commits the mayors to "work both individually and together" to assist in the "successful realisation" of European Capital of Culture 2020 project in the city. The statement also reads: "We commit our experience, knowledge and imaginations to build a lasting legacy towards a sustainable cultural, social and economic future for our city."
The mayors are also calling on the public to get behind the project and to help make it a success. "We encourage and exhort you to join us in celebrating our vibrant city, as part of the wider region, representing Ireland in Europe and the world," the statement read.
Alongwith Mayor McNelis [pictured above], the declaration was signed by sitting councillors, Padraig Conneely, Frank Fahy, and Pearce Flannery (Fine Gael ), Mike Crowe (Fianna Fáíl ), Donal Lyons, Terry O'Flaherty, Declan McDonnell, and Noel Larkin (Independent ) all of whom have served as mayor; Fine Gael Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton, who was mayor during the 2011/2012 council term; and former mayors and councillors Michéal Ó hUiginn, Fintan Coogan, Tom Costello, Brian Walsh, Val Hanley, Martin Quinn, Niall Ó Brolchain; and former mayor and TD, Padraic McCormack.
Speaking after the meeting, Mayor McNelis told the Galway Advertiser, "It was agreed that there is merit in arranging such an event on a more regular basis. I believe that as an event, getting all the former mayors together was a success, and that the experience and willingness to continue to support our great city was very evident."