The Abbey Theatre and cultural life


A chara, – Robert Ballagh laments the appointment of non-Irish people to lead cultural institutions including the Abbey Theatre and the National Gallery of Ireland, wondering if this reflects a policy of “No Irish need apply” (January 10th).

It is somewhat ironic that Mr Ballagh essentially falls into the same trap of ultranationalist jingoism, by seeming to suggest that only Irish people should be allowed apply for certain roles.

It is vital in a world marked by increasing division and isolationism in the West, that appointments are not made on the basis of creed, colour, sexuality, nationality or any other criteria, other than merit and suitability for the role.

A policy of “Ireland for the Irish” would be deeply disappointing and reflect very poorly on our citizens. – Is mise,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – Robert Ballagh’s comments in relation to the nationality of various directors of cultural institutions in this country displays a cultural myopia that beggars belief and that only feeds a toxic appetite for nativism seen elsewhere in Europe and America. The logic of his argument clearly is “only Irish need apply” or “no outsiders”. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – In response to the letter sent to the Minister for Culture on Monday, I, as a regular punter, would like to respond by saying that I have been to the Abbey more times in the last 18 months than I have in the previous 10 years combined. Why? The Abbey is now showing plays that I want to see.

Keep up the good work! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Robert Ballagh (January 10th) should immediately contact the University of Oxford to object to its choice of vice-chancellor, Prof Louise Richardson from Waterford.

Shocking that such a “national cultural institution is being managed by an outsider”! – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Robert Ballagh complains that too many of our major Irish cultural institutions are directed by people who were not born in Ireland!

What a pity that an important debate around our National Theatre should be reduced to a slanging match about race.

This ill-judged and ill-informed letter runs against so many of the values that theatre and the visual arts try to embody, not least diversity and inclusion. How embarrassing that a leading Irish artist, one who can offer such brilliant insight into those he paints, finding their humour, spirit and passion, should suddenly lose these faculties when contributing to a public debate which many of us are highly invested in and troubled by.

If the current challenges faced by the Abbey and the great Irish community of theatre makers are to be resolved, it will need considerably wiser and more temperate heads than this. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.