Galway, Limerick and the southeastern 'Three Sisters' (Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford) have been shortlisted for European Capital of Culture 2020.
Ireland, along with Croatia, will host the the European Capital of Culture, an EU initiative, in five years and one of the three regions will be selected in July next year to be the host.
The recommendation to the shortlist of the three bids was made by a panel of independent experts, who evaluated each of the cities' bids. Dublin, which was the fourth bid, lost out after the evaluation.
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One of the regions will join the two previous hosts; Dublin in 1991 and Cork in 2005, to be the next host in the country. Studies have shown that hosting the event can be a catalyst for the cultural development and the transformation of the city.
Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, said: “The designation presents a unique and important opportunity to showcase a city, bringing with it an unprecedented focus at local, national and international level.”
Belgian city Mons and Bavarian city Plzeň in the Czech Republic are the current hosts of the European Capital of Culture 2015.