Future of theatre at risk over fund gap

State grant insufficient to rebuild fire-gutted venue in Macroom

Scene of fire at Briery Gap Theatre in Macroom, Cork.

The future of an iconic theatre in mid-Cork is in serious doubt after it emerged the Government will not provide the necessary funding to rebuild it, due to financial commitments to the proposed city-based Cork Events Centre.

County councillors reacted angrily after officials said the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was only prepared to provide €250,000 towards the rebuilding of the Briery Gap theatre in Macroom.

The theatre, which also housed the town’s library, was gutted in a fire nearly two years ago. The restoration is costed at €4m.

A meeting of the Blarney/Macroom municipal district council was told the county council was willing to pump in €1m of its own money into rebuilding the centre.

Officials said they expected a further €1.1m-€1.2m from the insurance company which had the policy on the building, leaving a serious shortfall. The council had initially hoped to secure €1.5m from the insurers.

A senior official told councillors that without proper grant-aid, County Hall would only be able to reinstate the library at the gutted building and not the theatre.

The library has since transferred to a leased building in the town.

Cllr Gobnait Moynihan saw red when told of the department’s commitment to the Cork city-based Events Centre and the paltry amount it would provide for rebuilding the Briery Gap.

“That can’t be right, it’s absolutely appalling. The council can provide €1m from its own funds but the department will only give us €250,000. That’s disgraceful,” she said.

The department has to wake up. The town is really going to lose out. People will go elsewhere for cultural events.

Cllr Michael Creed said the cost of refurbishing the building had shocked him.

A report furnished by Eileen O’Brien, the acting county librarian, said that as part of the refurbishment works the theatre would have to be upgraded to comply with current fire, accessibility and building control regulations.

She pointed out the county council had planned to increase the theatre’s capacity from 140 seats to 230, enabling it to attract much larger acts.

She said a number of measures to address the funding shortfall were being examined.

Ms O’Brien said that the council was examining what schemes various government departments are currently running and potential sources from EU programmes.

Cllr Creed said the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht shouldn’t be ploughing so much money into the Cork Events Centre at the expense of the Macroom centre.

Cllr Ted Lucey said it was “appalling” the council faced such a shortfall. “I don’t think we should take no for an answer from the department.”

Cllr Bob Ryan proposed that councillors started lobbying immediately: “Two meetings should be organised. A delegation from the council should seek a meeting with the relevant minister (Josepha Madigan). We should also seek a meeting with senior county council management,” he said. All councillors agreed.

Cllr Moynihan said everything had to be done to ensure that both the library and theatre were reinstated.

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