Culture body led by Derry man set to go

Picture Martin McKeown. 29.10.12
Picture Martin McKeown. 29.10.12

A Dublin cultural body headed up by a Derry man is to be wound down in the wake of highly critical reports about how it was being run.

Dublin City Council is expected to take over responsibility for the promotion of Temple Bar from the Temple Bar Cultural Trust (TBCT) - whose chief executive is Derry man Dermot McLaughlin.

The move, announced on Wednesday, follows a report commissioned by Trust owner Dublin City Council, which concluded the move would save the Council 800,000 euro a year.

A separate audit, also commissioned by the Council, alleged a litany of unacceptable issues relating to the use of company credit cards, expenses, and salaries.

The Trust, set up in 1991, is charged with promoting events in the famous Dublin cultural area and managed a mix of 28 commercial, residential and retail premises. At the end of 2010, the premises were estimated to be worth 9.4 million euro.

The audit branded internal controls “unsatisfactory” and said the number and extent of weaknesses and regulatory violations represented “unacceptable exposure and risk”.

The board said it had put in place financial procedures to address most of the issues and indicated that 92 per cent of the report’s recommendations were being “accepted and addressed”.

In a statement, the TBCT board acknowledged the achievements of the Trust “but the time has come for reinvigoration of what was the cultural remit of TBCT”.

The board statement added the Council should consider how best to develop Temple Bar’s unique identity.

Dermot McLaughlin, who recently resigned early from a year-long secondment post as Derry’s City of Culture project director, has not been available for comment. It’s believed he intended to return to his TBCT post next month.

The Temple Bar Cultural Trust has a total of 16 employees. They earned a reported total of €897,730 a year, with salaries ranging from €42,000 to €103,730 for Mr. McLaughlin.

Councillor Mannix Flynn, who resigned recently from the TBCT, said: “TBCT is over. They’ve realised it’s a vehicle that’s unfit for this road.”

Earlier this week, a government agency which oversaw the appointment of Dermot McLaughlin as project director of the city’s culture year dismissed suggestions that it tried to “encourage” his resignation.

The Strategic Investment Board (SIB) insisted Mr McLaughlin’s reasons for quitting the culture job were “compelling, urgent and entirely private” and had nothing to do with his work either in Derry or Dublin.

Brett Hannam, chief executive with the SIB - which supports the Northern Ireland Executive to deliver major and complex infrastructure projects - said Mr. McLaughlin’s resignation didn’t follow on from a meeting with an SIB official.

“The insinuation that SIB sought to encourage Dermot to resign has no basis in fact, ” he said.