If the Government wants to send a signal that it supports the Irish language, and the arts and the jobs it provides to the Irish economy, it will support efforts to renovate An Taibhdhearc.
This is the view of Fine Gael Galway West TD Brian Walsh who made the call for Government funding to renovate and repair An Taibhdhearc in his maiden speech to Dáil Éireann.
An Taibhdhearc, the State’s Irish language theatre, was badly damaged by fire in November 2007 and remains closed. As a result the company has had to stage plays and concerts in other venues for the past four years.
Plans for the restoration were prepared following a commitment by the previous government that it would match the €300,000 contribution to the project separately provided by the theatre company and the Galway City Council.
However the government funding never materialised and the City Hall funding was made conditional on the government contribution.
“That government left office without fulfilling the commitment it made in relation to the project, and that broken promise can be counted amongst the litany of broken promises on which that administration has already been judged by the electorate,” Dep Walsh told the Dáil.
He added that it is “ a shame that the landmark theatre”, which has been at the “centre of culture and the arts” both locally and nationally for more than 80 years “has been allowed to remain derelict since”.
Dep Walsh praised the theatre’s board for its efforts to continue staging productions at other locations since, “But they have done so at considerable cost at a time when they are striving to raise funds to ensure a return to their rightful home”.
Dep Walsh reminded TDs that the late actor Mick Lally first came to prominence on the stage of An Taibhdhearc.
“His sad passing last year was met with warm tributes from members of this House,” he said, “but there could be no more fitting tribute to him, with the first anniversary of his death approaching, than if provision could be made to secure the future of the theatre to which he owed some of his success and through which he gave so much to so many.”
Dep Walsh also said the FG/Labour Government can demonstrate its “commitment to Irish as a vibrant, living language” than to support An Taibhdhearc’s efforts to return to its traditional home.
Dep Walsh said restoring the theatre would also make economic sense.
“The Irish language has been calculated to be worth more than €136m to the local economy in Galway and supports more than 5,000 jobs in the area,” he said. “In the current economic climate, we need to look towards our strengths in order to emerge from this economic crisis, and among these strengths are the arts, culture, and tourism. An Taibhdhearc is no less than iconic in all three of these areas.”