Phoenix Festival down in flames

TULLAMORE’S Phoenix Festival, which was due to take place this weekend, has been cancelled amid allegations of bureacracy by the Town Council.

TULLAMORE’S Phoenix Festival, which was due to take place this weekend, has been cancelled amid allegations of bureacracy by the Town Council.

In a statement issued yesterday (Tuesday) Festival spokesman Loughnan Hooper said, “It is with sincere regret that the Phoenix Arts Festival committee are left with no alternative but to cancel the festival due to take place in the Town Park on Saturday May 7 and Sunday May 8.”

He added that the festival committee had been trying to meet with town council officials since January 6 regarding the festival and have been met by “constant bureaucracy.”

Cathaoirleach of the Town Council Molly Buckley said she had asked on numerous occasions for a meeting between the Festival and the Council, but was told by Council officials that a meeting could not take place until the insurance issue was resolved.

“I’m very disappointed for the volunteers and everybody involved. I know that insurance has become a major issue for public authorities all over the country. But I really feel that a meeting should have been held to resolve this issue and I repeatedly asked the Council to set up a meeting and I had even requested that the Festival Organisers make a presentation to the Council, but that did not happen.”

However, Director of Services Declan Kirrane told the ‘Offaly Expres’s yesterday that the Council had been seeking assurances on the issue of Public Liability Insurance since last January. “To be fair to the organisers they wrote to us last January and we informed them of the insurance requirements.”

He denied that Tullamore Town Council’s insurance requirements were any more stringent than other local authorities, pointing out that most local authorities in the country are insured through the Irish Public Bodies Mutual Insurances Ltd.

According to Mr Hooper the festival organisers were requested by council officials to complete an application form available online, which gives clear guidelines to submit completed applications no less than 4 weeks before the event with adequate insurance to give the council adequate time to assess the application.

“The festival, having engaged the local community to submit events they would like to see happen in the park during the festival, submitted an interim application 8 weeks in advance to guage the council’s response before a final event insurance policy was put in place and to give ample time to discuss any potential issues.

“The council’s response again took letter form and laid out new extensive insurance criteria which went beyond insurance policies requested by other local authorities from community festivals and also changed from the preceeding 11 years of the Phoenix Festival.

“At every opportunity the festival has sought discussion and open dialogue of the facts regarding insurance, health and safety and event management issues with the council.

“The festival has also worked tirelessly to meet the high level of insurance requested. The festival has at all times appreciated the paramount importance of insurance and agrees wholeheartedly that the local authority must be protected against onerous claims for any events taking place on Town Council property,” continued the statement from Mr Hooper.

He went on to claim “if the Town Council, which collectively includes officials and councillors, wanted this festival to happen in the Town Park this weekend, it could have happened, but unfortunately apart from three to four local councillors, no efforts for resolution have been forthcoming.”

This claim was rejected by Mr Kirrane who pointed out that the organisers of the Festival could have looked at other venues, but he did not think they had done so.

Mr Hooper added that the festival organising committee would like to express sincere apologies to all artists, contractors and volunteers who had been preparing for the festival. “Uniquely all artists were giving voluntarily of their time and creating specific Phoenix themed events for the last four months.

“The committee will be meeting next week to discuss when the Phoenix will rise again. Thanks to the community and local businesses for supporting us.”