As I informed the Deputy in response to a similar question on 18 December last, the Government, on 29 January 2003, authorised me to invite expressions of interest by way of public invitation from the private sector in participating, on the basis of a PPP, in the capital redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre in and-or around the vicinity of the site of the existing theatre.
My Department, with the Department of Finance and the Office of Public Works, has been working to implement that decision. To be compatible with the functions, profile, and status of a national theatre and to address the acknowledged defects with the existing theatre a redeveloped premises requires: to be a signature development, representative of a national theatre in the 21st century; to be in 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; three significant enlarged auditoria — Abbey, Peacock and a third multi-purpose space; a dedicated education and outreach facility; a publicly accessible archive; a restaurant-bar; improved public areas; disabled access for audiences and artists; and best practice theatre production facilities.
For the Abbey and Peacock to function efficiently, effectively and without compromise, their basic functioning must not depend on movement of goods and people by mechanical lift. In essence this means that the stages of both the Abbey and Peacock must be positioned at ground level. In addition, both theatres must have easy access, also at the same level, to the scenery store and the prop store. It is agreed between the management of the Abbey and the OPW that there is a requirement for a ground floor footprint that is considerably larger than now exists. Therefore, for the theatre to stay in its existing location it will be necessary to acquire properties adjacent to the existing premises.
Indications are that such acquisition will prove very costly and problematic in timescale. My Department and the OPW are carefully examining all the issues now arising and I hope to report to Government in the very near future.