Dáil Éireann - Volume 560 - 30 January, 2003

Written Answers. - Abbey Theatre Development.

  21. Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the success he has had in attracting private sector investment for the refurbishment of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; if it is still envisaged to pursue a public private partnership to fund this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2043/03]

  22. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the refurbishment proposals for the Abbey Theatre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2118/03]

  Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Mr. O'Donoghue): I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 22 together.

  At my request, the Government has approved a proposal to invite expressions of interest by way of public invitation from the private sector in participating, on the basis of a public-private partnership, PPP, in the capital redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre in and-or around the vicinity of the site of the existing theatre.

  An expert group comprising representatives of the then Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, the Office of Public Works, and the National Theatre in its report to my predecessor concluded that the redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre on the existing site and existing footprint does not have the potential to address satisfactorily the current problems of the theatre and that in order to be compatible with the functions, profile, and status of a national theatre and to address the acknowledged defects with the [708]existing theatre any redevelopment requires: a signature development, representative of a national theatre in the 21st century; an appropriate civic setting and form part of the overall urban regeneration represented by the O'Connell Street integrated area plan and north-east inner city plan; and these requirements mean that for the theatre to stay in its existing location, it will be necessary to acquire properties adjacent to the existing premises. Two design options have been identified which will provide the required accommodation.

  Expressions of interest from the private sector will now be invited, on the basis that: the redevelopment must meet the specified accommodation requirements of the theatre, in terms of size and configuration; the redevelopment must embrace the Abbey and Peacock Theatres and satisfactorily address the current problems of the two theatres; and the facilities available to the national theatre must at all times be consistent with the operational needs of the theatre, and with the requirement to provide a top-quality experience to audiences.

  However, subject to the above, the design may include the provision of additional elements, facilities or functions; and it will fall to the relevant private sector developer to assess the feasibility and financial implications of the property acquisition required, planning issues likely to arise etc., and to factor these risks into the final proposal.

  I am pleased that it will now be possible to move forward to the next stage of this development and I look forward to the creation in due course of a new home for the national theatre that reflects its important place in the cultural life of the nation and as the cradle of dramatic genius.

  Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 8.