Archive for January 5th, 2010

New Abbey Debate

5th January 2010 by Maura McHugh

The Stage reported yesterday that Martin Cullen, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, plans an early decision on the proposal to move the Abbey theatre to the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, which he strongly favours.

The minister argues that relocating the Abbey makes sense, socially and economically. It would rejuvenate O’Connell Street, he says, while the move to the GPO would cost only €80-€90 million, compared with the €150-€170 million that was expected to be spent on rebuilding the theatre on an alternative docklands site.

The Abbey move has been proposed in a recently revised government plan agreed by the two partners in the current Coalition administration, Fianna Fail and the Green Party, with a grand opening suggested for 2016, the centenary of the Rising. A feasibility study of the proposal is now under way.

However, Cullen has revealed that before the issue came into public debate, “a very good international architect, who has worked with theatres”, had prepared a model of how the Abbey might be relocated to the GPO. He was shown the model, which had involved a huge amount of research. “I know it works. I saw it all and it’s fantastic,” he said.

But the Irish National Conservation and Heritage Group takes a very different view. Its spokesman, Damien Cassidy, described the proposed Abbey move as “ludicrous and crazy” and said it would succeed only in destroying two national monuments, the theatre and the GPO.

According to Cassidy, the GPO should be retained in its present role as a national monument. The Abbey move was “being pushed by an elitist group”, he claimed, and his organisation was planning a campaign to stop any interference with what he called “one of the most iconic buildings in Irish history”.