New Abbey Will Go Ahead

9th March 2009 by Maura McHugh

The Stage reports that Martin Cullen, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, has pledged that the new Abbey Theatre will be completed despite the Irish government’s difficult economic situation.

The information came out of an exchange between Cullen and opposition party spokeswoman on the arts, Olivia Mitchell of Fine Gael, during a recent Dáil session.

“It’s incredible it could take so long,” she said. “It is not as if the minister is designing the building – he’s merely presiding over the drawing up of competition guidelines for someone else to design it. If that process can take years, as it has, how long will it take to build the theatre? The project has turned into a dramatic saga to rival anything the Abbey might stage.”

But the minister insisted progress was being made. “The project is complex,” he said. “There is a myriad of technical, procedural and legal factors to address, but the final work is being done at the moment.”

A free site has been provided for the theatre in the Dublin docklands and the project is to be developed on a ‘build, finance and maintain basis’ through a public-private partnership arrangement.

Mitchell questioned whether it was realistic to depend on public-private partnerships in the current uncertain economic conditions. “Was the project really being put on the long finger?”, she asked.

In reply, the minister said that delivering the new theatre was a top government priority. The design competition would get under way shortly, he promised, and added: “I am confident that when the competition is complete, we will have a world class design for a new iconic building for the city.”

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