New Roscrea Theatre derailed by “broken promises”

Thursday, 21 December 2017

OVER 20 YEARS ago plans were set in motion to create a new theatre in Roscrea and to create a new pedestrian avenue that would have opened up the Castle gardens - but it never happened.
The reason why is "broken promises" according to renowned author and historian George Cunningham, who is also Editor and founder of the Roscrea People and a founding member of Roscrea Heritage Society.
Arguably, one of the greatest drawbacks of the very beautiful and sadly underutilised gardens in Roscrea Castle is that the walled garden is essentially a dead end for visitors.
However, plans to create a link for pedestrians from Rosemary Street into the gardens may soon be resurrected after the Roscrea People Editor recently published an article very critical of the failure to realise these plans.
Adjacent to the garden walls is a building known locally as "Ryan's Hall," which was purchased by the Heritage Society from Liam T. Maher in the early 1990's for €50,000.
The Heritage Society saw the potential in the old building to create an intimate theatre in the heart of the town and that the site could be used to open up access between the Castle complex and Rosemary Street.
The purchase was grant aided by funds from the Arts Council and the Heritage Council and Shaws, who operate a large store at the top of Castle Street, generously agreed to donate a small portion of their property that would facilitate the creation of a new avenue for pedestrians.
An important point to note is that the project would have caused no upset to the delicate and preserved Castle complex walls and the Office of Public Works (OPW) were onboard with the project.
After purchasing Ryan's Hall the Heritage Society handed over the building to the OPW for conservation and for its development - as it was agreed the project should proceed under the terms of the grants awarded by Arts and Heritage Councils.
However, despite initial work starting for a brief period, the intended use as a small theatre never happened and the valuable link to Rosemary Street was never created - a project which could have had a dramatically positive impact on the quality of life for people in Roscrea and for visitors to the town's main site.
The success story that is neighbouring Birr, which has its very successful Oxmantown Theatre and always busy Castle complex, could have been replicated in Roscrea had the project been realised.
Instead today the site is used as a storage facility for the OPW and lies dormant and unused and the link from Rosemary Street to the Castle has been forgotten.
“This is a public misuse of public funds granted for a specific purpose," the Roscrea People Editor said, adding that if the OPW cannot fulfill the planned development for which the building and site were purchased, then should be handed back to the Heritage Society or the people of the town.
Mr Cunningham plans to hold a public meeting early in the new year for the community to discuss the failed project and to examine the feasibility of resurrecting the plans for the betterment of the town.


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