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Clare county arts officer Siobhan Mulcahy

Arts Projects in jeopardy

by Carol Byrne

THE future of nine arts projects in Clare, worth €343,500, are in limbo after Irish Water indicated it is going to discontinue the Per Cent for Art Scheme.

Clare County Council applied for grants following the construction of nine water schemes in the county. Three applications for arts funding of €51,000 were sought in relation to the construction of the Newmarket-on-Fergus Water, Ennis Water Treatment Plant and West Clare Contract Six Water Schemes.

A further three applications for €38,000 in arts funding were made following the development of the Ennis Augmentation Water Scheme, Corofin Sewerage Scheme and Lisdoonvarna Water Supply Scheme extension to Ballyvaughan.

Two applications for funding of €25,500 were sought under the Per Cent for Art Scheme following the construction of the Tulla Serviced Land Initiative (SLI) and the Clonlara SLI Sewerage Scheme, while one application for funding of €25,000 was made in respect of works at the Clarecastle SLI.

The information emerged in a report prepared by Clare Arts Officer, Siobhán Mulcahy, which was furnished at a recent meeting of the Housing, Social and Cultural Services Strategic Policy Committee (SPC). Ms Mulcahy outlined Irish Water has indicated it is not going to continue with the Per Cent for Art Scheme.

“There are two main issues affecting Clare County Council, the amounts applied for to the Department, whereby no decision has been given and the amount of money that would not be available to the local authority for future capital schemes. As chair of the association of local authority arts officers, I have been in touch with the CCMA outlining our concerns over the approach being taken by Irish Water. A number of other local authorities are in the same position, some of which have started commissions or were about to advertise commissions,” Ms Mulcahy said.

In a statement to The Clare Champion, a spokesperson for Irish Water said it has “no plans at present to participate in the Per Cent for Art Scheme in respect of future capital programmes”.

“The capital projects that Irish Water will be engaging in over the coming years and decades are infrastructural in nature. The facilities are not accessible by the public and therefore it is not an effective use of the Exchequer funding to ringfence part of the budget in this way. We are open to reviewing this position in the future if it appears the best thing to do in the interests of the general public and their communities. Irish Water will honour any commitments to expenditure committed by a local authority at December 31, 2013,” she said.

The scheme has been running in the county since a Public Art Strategy was adopted under the County Arts Development Plan 2010 – 2014. In the last number of years, the scheme has been used to commission a theatre piece on the history of Newmarket-on-Fergus, a traditional singing residency in Kilmaley Day Care Centre and, most recently, the Clare Concerto from the Clare Memory Orchestra.

According to Ms Mulcahy, “In order to maximise the impact of the scheme, the local authority currently pools funding from the various allocations and then commissions larger scale projects in each of the electoral areas. Currently, one commission is underway in the East Clare area – a suite of music to commemorate Brian Boru, with plans to develop a sculpture walkway in Shannon as the next project to be rolled out. The Arts Office also provides advice and assistance to schools and community groups in applying for the scheme and running competitions”.
It was agreed that Councillor Patricia McCarthy and Mayor Joe Arkins would write to the department regarding the issue.

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