Wednesday 20 September 2017

Deenihan insists he is still trying to turn bank’s flagship branch into cultural center

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

ARTS Minister Jimmy Deenihan has insisted that he is still trying to turn Bank of Ireland's flagship branch on College Green into a cultural center.

The building in the centre of Dublin was the location of the first Irish parliament until it was abolished with the Act of Union in 1801. It was sold to Bank of Ireland in 1803.

In the Dail, Mr Deenihan said it was still his belief that it could be turned into a cultural center

“There has been dialogue, serious dialogue and that dialogue and discussion will continue,” he said.

However, Mr Deenihan admitted that it was impossible for his department in the current financial climate to buy the building from Bank of Ireland and then convert it to a cultural centre.

“We cannot set aside the fact that the building remains in the ownership of the bank and is the largest and busiest of its branches,” he said.

Bank of Ireland had been facing demands from both Mr Deenihan and Labour TD Kevin Humphreys to hand over the branch in return for the €4.7bn bailout it received from taxpayers. But it said that the branch was "valuable to its shareholders.

Fianna Fail TD Sean O’Fearghail said that Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher had recently told a Dail committee that he was not aware of any request from the Government to take over College Green – even though this was not the case.

“Clearly this is not a priority for Mr Boucher,” he said.

Mr Deenihan said he had raised the issue of College Green during a number of meetings with Mr Boucher.

“I had hoped I would have made a significant impression on Mr Boucher on those occasions,” he said.

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