Call for clarity on Abbey move to GPO


FINE GAEL arts spokeswoman Olivia Mitchell called for clarity from the Government on using the GPO in Dublin as a site for a new national theatre.

“This could go on for ever,” she said. “All it is doing is costing money and, at the end of the day, we have nothing to show for it.”

Ms Mitchell said it would be wonderful to have “a flagship Abbey” but it should be admitted if it was now no more than “a time-wasting exercise”.

Minister for Culture Mary Hanafin said she had not made a decision on the matter. “I have not seen the feasibility study yet,” she added. She said that a decision would have to be made on whether it was the best decision for the Abbey Theatre “and then we have to fight the financial argument”.

She believed, she said, that something should be done about the provision of an iconic building for 2016 to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

There was no doubt, she said, that the Abbey Theatre needed more space and should be made more accessible.

Ms Hanafin said the development of a new national theatre project was a complex undertaking. “There is a myriad of technical, procedural and legal factors to be addressed,” she added. “Seeking to deliver a national theatre building in the GPO, with all of the history that embraces that building, adds to the complexity and also calls for particular sensibility.”

Ms Hanafin said a feasibility group involving the key stakeholders had been set up and had begun an assessment of the GPO complex to ascertain if it was a feasible location for the redeveloped national theatre.

She added that significant progress had been made on the technical accommodation issues, and the legal and corporate issues needed to be considered. It would be the autumn, she said, before all of the elements of the feasibility study were fully addressed.

Ms Mitchell said a former minister, the late Séamus Brennan, had announced some years ago that he was having a design competition for a new theatre. It was later announced that it was proposed to locate it in the GPO. She said that while she would love to see a project commemorating 1916, she had to ask herself if it was the kind of project most needed at the moment.

Ms Hanafin said the issues involved were complex. There were tenants in the GPO arcade.

“There is probably a view that the GPO should continue to be used as a post office in some form or other,” she added.