Festival funding divides council

by Gazette Reporter

POLITICIANS have disagreed over the use of €30,000 allocated to Leopardstown Racecourse’s Christmas Festival this year, with some local councillors asking that the council review the funding for the festival.
Cllr Kevin Daly (Ind) asked the chief executive to outline all council funding granted to Leopardstown Racecourse yearly since 2011 at an area committee meeting recently.
The council replied that it had paid €50,000 towards the racecourse’s 2013 The Gathering Christmas Festival, and also passed a resolution in February 2014 to approve a payment of €30,000 towards the 2014 Christmas Festival.
Cllr Victor Boyhan (Ind) said: “The council committed itself to funding the Leopardstown Christmas Racing Festival to the tune of €30,000 for 2014 – it’s a lot of money.
“It’s very hard to quantify the benefits or even justify of this level of sponsorship, going forward.
“€30,000 would go a long way in helping local sports clubs; with limited resources, this is where I would like to see the council direct its financial supports in terms of sport development.”
This year, Paddy Power Day at Leopardstown Christmas Festival attracted high-profile figures such as President Michael D Higgins, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, Irish Rugby’s Joe Schmidt, media pundit Eamon Dunphy, professional golfer Shane Lowry, businessman JP McManus and more.
Leopardstown Racecourse chief executive Pat Keogh told The Gazette: “The Leopardstown Christmas Festival attracts more than 50,000 people each year. This year, the total attendance exceeded 58,000 people.
“To help us promote the festival, we applied for a Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council grant scheme and were delighted it was approved. We used the funds to promote the event, to build a temporary structure to cater for the crowds, and to have entertainment after racing on the last day [and it] was only part of a much bigger budget to stage the event.
“This is the second year that we received a grant, and over those two years we have increased our total attendance on the last day of the festival by 22%.
“We therefore feel that this is a very good initiative and one that we will continue with.”
Cllr Lettie McCarthy (Lab) said: “We are very fortunate to have Leopardstown Racecourse in our county attracting visitors from abroad for many of the big racing calendar days, including the four-day Christmas festival.
“We must continue to encourage visitors from home and abroad to these events.”
Cllr Chris Curran (SF) said: “I believe that a €30,000 grant for the event represents a drop in the ocean to the organisers and could be better spent in the community.
“For example, €30,000 would pay for a new playground in Kilcross or Moreen/Blackthorn.”
A council spokesperson said: “Applications for grants are reviewed on an annual basis under the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council universal grant scheme.”

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