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Monday 19 March 2018

Arts Minister called on to protect Bord Gais Theatre

Heather Humphries
Heather Humphries
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

New Beginning, the civic group which represents people struggling with debt, has 
written a letter to the newly-appointed Arts Minister Heather Humphreys seeking a meeting between the parties on the future of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin's southside docklands. The theatre is currently in the process of being sold by Nama.

The group sought the meeting after estate agents CBRE turned down an offer of €20m for the landmark Dublin theatre last Thursday.

While the not-for-profit organisation's offer surpassed the guide price - and included a commitment to hold the venue as a public trust - the Sunday Independent understands the group's bid was rejected on the basis of price alone.

In a letter to the Arts Minister which they sent the same day, New Beginning's founders, Ross Maguire and Vincent P Martin highlighted the powers afforded to her Cabinet colleague, Finance Minister Michael Noonan under the Nama Act, which they believe could be used to safeguard the theatre's future for the benefit of the State.

Under the terms of Section 14 of the Nama Act, the Minister for Finance is specifically empowered to "give direction to Nama concerning the achievement of the purpose of the legislation and in particular to give a direction regarding the purpose of contributing to the social development of the State".

In their appeal to Ms Humphreys, New Beginning warned that without the intervention of the Finance Minister to whom they also have written, the Bord Gais theatre would be sold and quite possibly to a buyer overseas.

The effect of such a deal they wrote could see "the very great contribution it could make [to the State] gravely undermined".

In putting together its own €20m bid for the Daniel Libeskind-designed theatre which takes pride of place in Dublin's docklands, New Beginning brought together hundreds of investors, including numerous high-profile figures from the Arts.

In raising the required funds, the group arranged a scheme whereby each one of the facility's 2,111 seats would be "sold" for €10,000 to investors who would then place them in trust "for the benefit of the artistic and cultural life of the State".

Nama acquired the theatre after taking control of the multi-million euro debt owed by the Dublin-born developer Harry Crosbie.

The winning bidder will acquire ownership of the theatre which cost €80m to build until 2207 at a notional annual rent of €100.

Efforts by the Sunday Independent editorial team to contact the Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys for comment yesterday proved unsuccessful.

Sunday Independent

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