Subscriber OnlyIrelandOverheard

Neglected Dublin theatre could be in line for a revival

The Rupert Guinness Theatre requires ‘substantial investment’; Def Leppard frontman at the top of the tree; and Garret FitzGerald’s love note from Sophia Loren

A performance outside the disused Rupert Guinness Theatre as part of a campaign by Outlandish Theatre and Pallas Projects seeking more arts spaces. Photograph: Mark Stedman

You have probably heard about the theatre under Busáras, the Dublin bus station. The Eblana Theatre, as it was known, once hosted plays by upcoming dramatists such as John B Keane, Brian Friel, Hugh Leonard and Tom Murphy. Bus Éireann now plans to turn it into a staff training centre, sadly. But another largely forgotten Dublin theatre may be set for a new chapter.

The Rupert Guinness Theatre on Watling Street, Dublin 8 was opened by Guinness in 1951 with Seán O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman as its first play. Guinness spared no expense on the 600-seat theatre, equipping it with a finger-touch-controlled counterweighted system for scene changing and a state-of-the-art lighting system. The Abbey Theatre even decamped there for a while during the 1950s after its own premises was damaged by a fire. It was rented to the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) as a lecture hall for a spell but hasn’t been used since 2019 and now requires “substantial investment”, according to Guinness owner Diageo.

Minister for Arts Catherine Martin recently visited the facility, as well as the Bicentenary Theatre, another Guinness facility that has a gym, squash courts and swimming pool for staff, which is sometimes rented to local schools for swimming lessons. Following her visit, Martin committed to carrying out a feasibility study to investigate if the State could invest in the facilities to help make them suitable for “long-term community use”, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Let’s hope that, unlike the Busáras basement space, the Rupert Guinness Theatre gets a revival.

Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott. Photograph: Juan Pablo Pino/AFP via Getty

Def Leppard frontman scales new heights

Good news for Joe Elliott. The Def Leppard frontman will be able to let his hair down in a treehouse he built at his Stepaside home in south Co Dublin after Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council granted retention permission for the 7sq m structure. Earlier this year the council issued an enforcement order against Elliott and his wife, Kristine Elliott (nee Wunschel), for building the children’s treehouse without planning permission following a complaint from a neighbour.

But last week the council approved it retrospectively, ruling the “modest scale” of the den, comprising a timber deck supported by tree trunks with timber and Perspex screening on the sides, meant it would not “adversely impact on adjacent properties”.

Former Airbnb host Michael Collins defends Airbnb

Independent Ireland TD Michael Collins got very exercised in the Dáil earlier this month over legislation aimed at regulating the short-term rental sector because of its possible effects on Airbnb hosts.

“Airbnb hosts are not the solution to the housing problem,” he harrumphed. “They are the solution to a thriving local and national tourism economy, supporting local jobs for local people.”

The deputy neglected to mention his own role as an Airbnb host over the years, though. Collins previously declared a short-term rental through Airbnb of an “old farmhouse” near Schull in his annual Dáil register of interests, most recently in 2020.

Cadbury not so sweet on Ireland, it seems

When it comes to confectionery, we have long been losing out due to what economists call shrinkflation. But it’s not just the size of your favourite bar or biscuit that’s getting smaller in Ireland. A reader drew our attention to a giveaway by Cadbury, now owned by Mondelez International, which still has two factories in Ireland, one in Coolock, Dublin, and another in Rathmore, Co Kerry.

In the UK, buyers of white Cadbury fingers are being offered very tasty cash prizes, with three £20,000 (€23,600) prizes on offer, as well as four £10,000 prizes, seven £5,000 windfalls and a host of smaller prizes.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, there are 12 prizes in total, worth €200 each. Leaves a sour taste in the mouth, doesn’t it?

IRFU in a scrum over proposed property extensions

Last month we reported how the IRFU was planning to extend three Dublin houses it owns beside the Aviva Stadium on Havelock Square – numbers 16, 18 and 20 – despite recently ending up in the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) trying to extract rent arrears from the tenants of another property it owns on Shelbourne Road in Dublin 4. More property, more problems, it seems.

Now a family living on the square, flanked by IRFU rentals on either side, has objected to the size and scale of the three proposed extensions. Sharon Kiely and Gary O’Connor say they are one of the few remaining “family-owned and inhabited properties on this side of Havelock Square”. They argue that allowing proposed first floor extensions on the three houses, “coupled by already dark conditions posed by the size and scale of the Aviva Stadium”, would have an adverse impact on their home. They say the properties owned by the IRFU on the square are either rented or used to house IRFU personnel on a seasonal basis. Sounds like the property equivalent of finding yourself stuck in a scrum.

Sophia Loren in Rome in 1972. Photograph: Douglas Kirkland via The New York Times

Garret FitzGerald’s ‘love’ note from Sophia Loren

The private library of Garret FitzGerald, the late Fine Gael taoiseach, is being auctioned by Purcell Auctioneers, with proceeds being donated to Focus Ireland. It is as diverse and idiosyncratic as you would imagine. There’s lots of history, nature, economics, poetry, fiction and politics, of course. There are biographies of Jack Lynch, Seán Lemass, Winston Churchill, John Major, Jacques Delors and several of Charles Haughey, Margaret Thatcher and Éamon de Valera.

Then there’s The Blueshirts by Maurice Manning; The Party: Inside Fianna Fáil by Dick Walsh; The Power Game – Fianna Fáil since Lemass by Stephen Collins; and Why England Slept by John F Kennedy.

But there are also a few surprises. A signed first edition of Ian Fleming’s Thunderball is available for €200-€300. We’re a little shaken (but not stirred) to discover FitzGerald is a 007 fan. And more than 40 years before Leo Varadkar was writing paeans to Kylie Minogue there is even the occasional signed celebrity autobiography, including Living and Loving: Her Own Story, signed “with love” by Sophia Loren.

Well there have to be some perks to being taoiseach.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here