COUNCILLORS opted out of publicly discussing the threatened closure of the Sherkin Island arts degree programme at a Council meeting last Monday.
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) had tabled a motion for the monthly meeting of West Cork Municipal District in Dunmanway on Monday seeking to discuss the decision of Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS) to place staff on protective notice, as well as calling on Cork County Council to continue to support the DIT Arts programme on the island.
But in view of the fact that the Municipal District officials have given an undertaking to meet island representatives, and the fact that Cork County Council has agreed to pay the €20,000 in funding it promised for 2016/2017, Cllr O’Sullivan withdrew the motion saying: ‘It is better not to pre-empt the outcome of that meeting.’ When Cllr O’Sullivan withdrew the motion, none of the other Council members addressed the issue, and it was not raised under “any other business”, either. However, two councillors made statements to the press after the meeting.
Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan said: ‘There is an onus on us, as a Council, to continue to partly fund this course as we have done for the past few years.’
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) told The Southern Star he was ‘disappointed that a motion to discuss the future funding of an arts degree course on Sherkin Island was deferred.’
He said: ‘I and my Council colleagues have been inundated over the last week with emails and phone calls from people concerned for the future of this course on the island.’
He said that course students, past pupils, facilitators, business owners and island representatives had all been in contact with him to voice their concerns that the course may not be able to continue without the guarantee of funding from Cork County Council.
‘I’m aware that an arrangement between Cork County Council and the course facilitators meant that €20,000 was provided by the local authority annually to supplement funding from DIT, to run the course, but funding into the future is now unsure.’
Cllr Hayes said: ‘I am urging the Council executive to step up negotiations with representatives of the course on Sherkin to ensure a viable and sustainable form of funding can be found so that the course can be continued.
‘In the next few weeks,’ Cllr Hayes added, ‘we will be sitting down to finalise the budget for the county – a spend of approximately €320m – and I don’t believe that finding funding to support the continuation of the course from that budget is insurmountable.’ When contacted, Cork County Council issued the following statement: ‘DIT run this course on Sherkin island. Cork County Council have funded SIDS in the past to facilitate their involvement in the course and have agreed to contribute €20,000 to SIDS for the 2016/17 season.
‘Cork County Council have not made any commitment to fund their involvement in the course into the future. SIDS are aware of this through our meetings with them.
‘SIDS have made an application for funding into the future, which will be assessed under the terms of the economic development funding scheme.’
Cork South West TD, Michael Collins, said: ‘I would urge Cork County Council to review their position because a number of jobs and services depend on the continuation of the DIT arts programme. This programme is vital for Sherkin Island.’