Galway City Museum has become an integral part of the fabric of Galway city in the relatively short time since it has been established at the Spanish Arch. The number of visitors has gone up year on year, with annual figures of approximately 250,000 people. It has always embraced diversity and opened its doors to a broad range of groups.
In response to queries raised by me in August 2018, including the reasons why five houses remained vacant on Merchant’s Road, the City Manager confirmed that a significant enhancement and extension to the City Museum was in progress and that a substantial funding application was in train from Fáilte Ireland under its ‘Large Grants Scheme’. He said that the intention of the enhancement and extension project at Galway City Museum was to copper fasten the role of this part of the city as a cultural quarter. He also confirmed that the houses at Merchant’s road left empty since 2007 would to be developed as cultural/arts venues. Since then further progress has been made, and in a written report to the City Council in December 2018 the Director of Services sought and received approval to raise a €3.5 million loan to progress this development. The rationale for the Council’s loan is to underpin the Council’s matched funding commitment to this project with its drawdown subject to substantial funding from Fáilte Ireland of not less than €5 million.
While I welcome this progress, this is a substantial amount of public money which has to be openly accounted for and every step of the drawdown of the money has to be publicly accounted for. In addition, there must be full disclosure of the nature of the agreement between Fáilte Ireland and Galway City Council. It’s essential that the City Museum remains a public museum under the control of the City Council, is open and available to all and remains a protector and showcase for our heritage. This is the essence of what a museum is all about and it is one of the great success stories of the Galway Museum that more and more people are visiting this public building and using it as an educational facility. Moreover, any proposal to charge for entry would be totally unacceptable. Indeed as a city Councillor I, and my colleagues, successfully and repeatedly fought against any and all proposals to introduce charges to the Museum.
Urgent clarification is also needed on what is intended for the five houses acquired by the City Council on Lower Merchant’s Road in 2007 and 2008. That these houses have remained unoccupied since that time in the midst of a housing crisis is totally unacceptable. These houses were purchased with the express intention to be used as dwellings for artisans, and if they are not going to be used for that purpose, they should be used for housing people.
All of these matters must be clarified before any agreement is signed off and finalised between Fáilte Ireland and the City Council.