Monday 25 September 2017

National Concert Hall set to splash out €270,000 on toilets

The National Concert Hall, Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron/Collins
The National Concert Hall, Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron/Collins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

THE National Concert Hall (NCH) is planning to spend more than €270,000 refurbishing its ladies toilets, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The revelation follows the recent high-profile resignations of five NCH board members in the wake of a bitter internal row over the cost of US fundraising activities which raised very little income.

Now it has emerged the taxpayer-funded body – which received €2.3m from the State this year – is forking out more than a quarter of a million euro upgrading the venue's ladies toilets.

The Sunday Independent last week revealed that the NCH spent almost €200,000 wooing experts from Lincoln Centre in New York in a bid to start fundraising in the US.

The project fell through, and the taxpayer-funded agency is currently prohibited from seeking donations in America.

Heated boardroom debates over how to progress following the fall-out led to the resignation of Pat Heneghan, Bruce Arnold, Artemis Kent, Patricia Slavin and chairwoman Margaret Ryan.

In November 2012, during one of the board meetings to discuss the US fundraising drive, a proposal to spend €277,900 on "extending the ladies toilets" was approved by board members. However, work on the toilets only began last month when workers installed new water tanks and piping in the historic concert venue. The first phase is estimated to cost around €80,000 and will be funded entirely by the Office of Public Works (OPW). The second phase will be put to tender by the OPW on behalf of the NCH.

The successful bidder will be asked to install a new block of toilets and upgrade the existing facilities in the foyer of the concert venue.

A NCH spokeswoman said the age of the building added to the cost of the project.

She told the Sunday Independent: "The refurbishment of the toilets is a big job because it means a whole change to piping and tanks.

"If you ask any customer that comes to the Concert Hall, they will say toilets are the biggest problem. We are now working with the OPW to refurbish our toilets and improve the facilities significantly."

A little more than one-third of the NCH's funding comes from the State. The rest is raised through ticket sales and fundraising initiatives. The NCH has operated as a limited company since it was established 32 years ago.

However, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, recently decided to make the concert venue a statutory body under his Department's control.

A Department spokesman said the move would not affect the NCH management structure.

The NCH also hopes to convert the Kevin Barry Room, where Treaty debates took place during the Twenties, into a 150-seat concert venue.

At the launch of the NCH's summer season last Monday, Minister Deenihan said he hoped, in the future, to renovate the historic room.

It is also proposed that the old University College Dublin library will be converted into a 500-seat hall.

Sunday Independent

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