New Minister for Arts and Culture, Catherine Martin, must be more transparent than predecessor on Galway 2020 spending
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has called on incoming Minister Catherine Martin to address the "lack of transparency" from her predecessor, Josepha Madigan, surrounding the financing of the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture project.
Deputy Tóibín said:
"It's just over a year now since it was revealed that Galway 2020 had spent upwards on £330,000 on professional, legal and audit fees, external advisors and 'other' expenditure. It is proving very difficult to get any up to date information this year, but I did raise the matter with outgoing Minister Madigan recently.
"Documents released to Aontú under the Freedom of Information Act show that expensive licenses were purchased for Galway 2020 events which were subsequently cancelled due to bad weather. Given that these events did not proceed, I asked Minister Madigan in the Dáil chamber a few weeks ago if the Council would return the money to Galway 2020 and what the cost had been to the tax-payer to date. In her response the then Minister merely said that the government was 'committed to providing all the funding it promised to Galway 2020'. This didn't directly answer my question and I'm very worried that we're just going to wind up putting taxpayer money into a black hole".
Deputy Tóibín continued: "I specifically asked the Minister for documents relating to spending but she refused to release any of the cash flow statements, invoices, bank statements or minutes of the meetings between her Department and Galway 2020, saying that the content is 'commercially' sensitive. She revealed that to date 9.5 million euro has been drawn down of the 15 million that the government has allocated, and yet we can but speculate what these funds have been spent on, as the Minister didn't release the break down to us".
"The public have a right to know how much of their money is being spent on the project. Have we seen any benefits of winning the title at all? Its costing us millions, and what are the fruits of it? Has Galway seen an increase in tourism and spending to match the monies spent? These are questions that the public deserve answers to, and questions that could be answered if the Department were more transparent with the figures and information that we know they possess. In congratulating Deputy Catherine Martin on her assignment to this department, I would call on her to ensure that the department exhibits more transparency than it did under the previous minister", concluded Deputy Tóibín.
Meanwhile Galway-based Aontú representative Cormac O'Corcoran has said; "I suspect there've been overspends on the project, especially in light of the fact that so many events were cancelled, and while the outgoing Minister may reasonably argue that she couldn’t control the weather, I'd say that planning an outdoor event for early February, in an area of Galway known as 'the swamps' wasn't exactly a recipe for success. All that we in Aontú are asking for is transparency. How much money has been lost on these projects to date? How much money did that cancelled event cost the tax-payer?"