Dun Mhuire Theatre is literally haemorrhaging money and the parish can't afford to keep it open, Fr. Aodhan Marken has told the Mayor of Wexford, Cllr. George Lawlor in a letter.
The Wexford parish administrator Fr. Marken outlined the situation in stark terms, in response to a request from public representatives for clarification about the future of the premises which Wexford County Council is proposing to purchase for the regeneration of south Main Street.
Fr. Marken said there is a debt of more than €115,000 on Dun Mhuire as it stands and the parish is facing sizeable requests for further funding just to keep the doors open.
'Fulfilling our obligations to the end of January 2020 will see a debt of €125,000', he said.
Necessary repairs and renovations would require a major capital injection and there are no funds available for this within the parish.
Fr. Marken said he cannot ask the churchgoers of the parish to continue to fund growing debts.
'As a committee, we understand and share the disappointment and the sadness of having to close the Dun Mhuire which has served the people of Wexford parish and others for nearly 60 years'.
'In reality, we as a committee don't see that we have a choice in the matter. The funds and the potential for funding is simply not available'.
Fr. Marken said Dun Mhuire is also a much underused facility in the town, which competes poorly with ever better facilities, including the National Opera House, Wexford Arts Centre and local hotels.
In relation to the finances, he said the Charities Act requires responsible stewardship of what are limited and diminishing resources.
'While memories, sentiments and nostalgia are so very important and very real to so many people, the reality is that there is no money to keep the Dun Mhuire open - debts have to be met and creditors will have to be paid'.
Fr. Marken said the local church can no longer fund an ever increasing debt without any resources or funding to improve or upgrade the building.
The Mayor read out the letter at a local authority meeting and Cllr. David Hynes reacted by saying: 'it is very sad that it has come to this'.
Cllr. Hynes spoke about the effect the closure will have on user groups such as the HFC Band, the Girl Guides, Legion of Mary and the AA.
'I do hope there will be a place for those groups. I don't have the answer either', he conceded.
'The priority now has to be the groups and finding a home for them', agreed Cllr. Tom Forde who asked for an update on the Council's bid to buy the building.
The Mayor said he was also 'very saddened' by the letter because he is aware of the amount of work that Fr. Aodhan puts into the community and outlining the situation in such stark terms is not something he would enjoy doing.
'The roof has to be replaced, you are talking about massive money', he said.
County Council Deputy Chief Executive Tony Larkin told councillors that he has held discussions with parish representatives and the user groups.
No purchase contracts have been signed but 'we do have an understanding', he said, adding that both sides are committed to finding alternative accommodation for the users.
Mr. Larkin has undertaken to meet with all the groups within the next few weeks.
'I am reasonably confident that we will have a solution. I have offered a number of solutions to some of them, where we have accommodation that would meet their needs, subject to the approval of the Council'', he said.
'I've agreed with the parish that if we buy it, we won't buy it until the spring of next year, so there will be no disruption'.
Cllr. Garry Laffan said he was saddened by the letter but glad that the groups were being accommodated.
He suggested that councillors should now stand back and allow the officials to deal with the parish committee.
'It's important now to let them go and do their work'.
Cllr. Tom Forde asked if the Council intended to demolish Dun Mhuire Hall.
Mr. Larkin replied that the building is at the end of its life as a working theatre and the local authority's interest in it is to facilitate the urban regeneration of south Main Street where there are a lot of sites primed for development.
There won't be an immediate demolition as the Council will not leave an empty site on the Main Street, he said.