From the Irish Parliament yesterday
National Concert Hall.
Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands the consideration which is being given by her Department to a proposal to relocate the National Concert Hall to a new site on Infirmary Road; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20300/01]
Miss de Valera: In 1981 the National Concert Hall was built within the Earlsfort Terrace complex to fill a major gap in the cultural infrastructure of the city as a venue suitable for classical musical performance. The Concert Hall shares its accommodation with UCD and it was recognised from the outset that the overall space allocated to it and the backstage accommodation, in its broadest interpretation, was fairly confined.
Since its establishment the NCH has developed as a venue for many forms of musical performance and has to meet increasingly stringent health and safety regulations and requirements. The inadequacies inherent in the original location are now a serious constraint on its operations. In addition, it most notably lacks a self-contained auditorium for musical performances of a more intimate character.
Accordingly I, together with the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Woods, authorised the Secretaries General of the Departments of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, and Education and Science, together with the Chairman of the Office of Public Works to form a high level group to examine and report on all the issues involved in relation to the NCH at Earlsfort Terrace.
I am advised that the high level group is currently considering the draft of its report to Ministers and that the option of the relocation of the National Concert Hall to a State owned site at Infirmary Road and Conyngham Road is one of a number of possibilities being considered. I anticipate that the group will soon submit its final report and recommendations to me and to the Minister for Education and Science for consideration, following which proposals requiring further action will be brought to Government for decision.
Mr. O'Shea: I thank the Minister for her comprehensive reply. Will she inform us, in broad terms, roughly how much money it would cost to construct a new National Concert Hall on a new site? Taking account of all the factors involved, does she favour its relocation?
Miss de Valera: The National Concert Hall has been a successful national institution. I am sure all of us would like to share in its success because it has been an excellent example of the work it does. The National Concert Hall does not have the further backstage facilities and second auditorium it requires and it is difficult to envisage how those facilities could be accommodated on the existing site. In light of those concerns, we set up the expert group to examine not only one particular site but possible alternative sites. The expert group will report to me on the suitability of the site at Infirmary Road. We will have to consider whether that site would be sufficient for the expansion of the facilities to include a second auditorium and on-stage facilities, but all of this is very much in the melting pot. I am looking forward to the expert group coming back to me and I will keep the House informed. I am sure more questions will be asked on this.
Mr. Timmins: Where does this study leave the proposed development of the real tennis court, which was to be incorporated into the National Concert Hall at Earlsfort Terrace? What is the situation with the real tennis court? Does she agree that whether the hall is relocated or not the real tennis court should be preserved for the use for which it was originally intended? The agreement made when Earlsfort Terrace was handed over to the State and the Minister's late grandfather in 1939 should be upheld and the commitment made to Lord Iveagh should be maintained. The court should be used for real tennis.
Mr. McGinley: I am sure the Minister would agree that the present National Concert Hall has memories for many of us from when we sat examinations while attending UCD. Perhaps the Leas-Cheann Comhairle himself spent some time there. Apart from that, can the Minister give us the time scale involved in the possible relocation of the National Concert Hall?
Miss de Valera: To deal with Deputy O'Shea's question, as we said the question of costings has not yet been worked out regarding a new site. We must see what sites may be available and what kinds of facilities could be accommodated at those sites. It is all very well for some of us to identify sites as being wonderful for a concert hall but we must know the actual parameters, which can only be done by experts such as engineers and architects. That kind of information will be given to us. The existing situation causes difficulty for the general running of the National Concert Hall because obviously a second auditorium is needed.
Regarding the real tennis court, the building which incorporates that has run into some planning turbulence and obviously we must wait to see what arises out of that procedure; it is obviously independent of any of us and it would be inappropriate for me to comment other than to say that I have made my views on this issue known here before. That is the situation regarding that building: there are planning difficulties which have to be addressed.