Wexford County Council is in negotiations with Wexford parish authorities in relation to buying the iconic Dun Mhuire Hall in South Main Street which a senior official has described as being 'on its last legs'.
The Council's Deputy Chief Executive Tony Larkin confirmed to Sinn Fein councillor Tom Forde at a meeting yesterday (Monday) that discussions are ongoing and should take about a month to conclude.
'If we buy it, it will be as a development option not as a theatre', said Mr. Larkin, ending months of speculation about the future of the historic entertainment venue.
He outlined a Council plan to revitalise South Main Street, which has a number of derelict and semi-derelict buildings, in the same way that Redmond Square was developed a few decades ago.
'We do believe that South Main Street needs to be developed and Dun Mhuire will be useful in order to develop the area', said the Council chief, revealing that the roof of historic building is in very bad repair.
'We have had discussions with representatives of the parish who are the owners of the building but we don't have agreement as yet. Discussions are continuing. We expect it to be sorted out one way or the other in the next month or so.'
He said the Council is aware that a number of groups currently use the premises but there are alternative options, including the Arts Centre, the Opera House and some County Council premises.
'We are looking at how to make the transition. We are not interested in it as a theatre but as a development site.'
Labour councillor George Lawlor said he doesn't want to see Dun Mhuire being left empty for a few years as the local authority works on a development plan, while groups such as Oyster Lane Theatre Group that cater for a lot of young people, are left to fend for themselves.
He wondered if these groups could continue to use the building in the intervening period.
'I don't want to see an empty building on the Main Street for two years', he said, adding that if Dun Mhuire is to be lost as a theatre, a modern replacement should be provided in the proposed new Trinity Wharf development. Cllr. Forde said there were rumours of it being demolished and asked if these were true.
'We have no plans to open it as as a theatre', re-iterated Mr. Larkin. 'Without making a substantial investment, it doesn't meet any of our normal standards. It is only used two or three times a year now'.
'People are emotionally attached to it but as a working theatre it is at the end of its life. As regards the users, we don't have a relationship with them as yet but as soon as we do, we will see what we can do to accommodate them. The parish has gone out of its way to highlight the need to accommodate the users. We will work with the ones who are reasonable and meet us half way', he said.'Dun Mhuire is on its last legs unless someone invests substantial money in it'' he said.