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National Concert Hall.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 17 February 2005

Thursday, 17 February 2005

Ceisteanna (11, 12)

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

8 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the extension of the National Concert Hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5166/05]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

9 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the upgrading of facilities at the National Concert Hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5345/05]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (9 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 9 together.

As I indicated in my reply to Question No. 79 on this subject on 20 October 2004, the Office of Public Works, having investigated over several years various locations for a state-of-the-art National Concert Hall in Dublin, advised me last year that reconfiguration of the site at Earlsfort Terrace where the concert hall is located would provide space for implementation of an imaginative design concept involving the provision of three separate performance spaces and access to the Iveagh Gardens.

As Deputies will appreciate, however, if this concept is to be progressed further it can only be in the context of University College Dublin completing the relocation of all remaining college staff located at Earlsfort Terrace to Belfield. UCD's plans for completing this process are well advanced but the financial issues around the provision of additional accommodation at Belfield have yet to be resolved. My Department has been engaged in a series of discussions with the Department of Education and Science, the Office of Public Works and University College Dublin to clarify the financial and other implications of meeting the needs both of UCD and the National Concert Hall. These discussion are continuing but I hope to be in a position to discuss with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, the parameters of a joint submission to Government on these interlocking issues in the near future.

This is becoming a long-running saga, comparable in some ways to the Abbey Theatre saga. Hopefully, however, it will not be put on the back burner. I am sure the Minister will agree that the provision of an enlarged national concert hall is important for the country. Currently, a number of international performances cannot take place in Dublin due to the lack of proper facilities, including stage size and changing areas. Those of us who are familiar with the National Concert Hall can fully appreciate that situation.

At the moment, the concert hall can be booked out for popular performances so there is a need for a new hall to cater for audience requirements.

A question, please.

The National Concert Hall is currently working at full capacity. It is likely that UCD will be moving out of the Earlsfort Terrace site at the end of 2006, so surely it is now time for the advance planning to commence on a blueprint for a new concert hall facility. The planning mechanism should be put in place immediately. A symphony hall with capacity for 2,000 places should be provided, while leaving the existing concert hall in situ. Does the Minister agree that the project is urgent and cannot wait until UCD eventually decides to move out?

Originally, negotiations were entered into with the Dublin Docklands Authority with a view to obtaining a site for the construction of a new national concert hall. However, these discussions fell through when the Dublin Docklands Authority withdrew its offer of the site under consideration. Subsequently, the Office of Public Works was asked to report on the feasibility of locating the concert hall at Earlsfort Terrace. Happily, the OPW concluded that, provided all the site was made available, a national concert hall could be accommodated at Earlsfort Terrace.

This is welcome news because it is an ideal location for the national concert hall. Deputy Deenihan points out correctly that it would be possible to construct the new national concert hall and, for the most part, continue with performances in the old concert hall at Earlsfort Terrace. It is estimated that the concert hall could be constructed on a phased basis over a five-year period. It would be a state-of-the-art facility. I appreciate the need for it and I accept that the current facilities are entirely inadequate. We are continuing to make progress. I will discuss with the Minister for Education and Science a joint approach to Government in the near future regarding the Earlsfort Terrace site.

The provision of such a facility is more urgent in view of the fact that places such as Gateshead and Cardiff have developed concert halls.

The Deputy should confine himself to putting a question.

Will the Minister ensure that Dublin will have a similar type of concert hall, at least in the next four or five years?

We will certainly do everything possible. As I said, both I and the Minister for Education and Science will bring a joint memorandum to Government in the near future.

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