Thursday, 15 February 2007
National Concert Hall.
Question 9: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the situation in regard to the new National Concert Hall complex; if he will report on the inaugural meeting of the steering committee for the redevelopment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5550/07]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 31 together.
The inaugural meeting of the inter-agency steering committee established for the redevelopment of the National Concert Hall was held on 4 December 2006, under the chairmanship of the Secretary General of my Department. The committee members are the Secretary General of my Department, the chairman of the Office of Public Works, the chairman of the National Concert Hall, the manager of Dublin City Council, a representative of the National Development Finance Agency, and the assistant Secretary General of my Department with responsibility for the arts and culture brief. The director of the National Concert Hall was in attendance at this meeting also. My Department provided the secretary to the committee.
The task of the inter-agency steering committee, in general terms, is to oversee the procurement, negotiation and construction phases of the design, build, finance and maintain PPP for the redevelopment of the National Concert Hall, in compliance with relevant Department of Finance guidelines and in adherence to the terms of the Government decisions germane to the project, and to realise the vision set for the project.
As the inter-agency steering committee is overseeing a deliberative, commercially sensitive PPP process, it would be inappropriate to report on its meetings. The committee's terms of reference require it "to maintain confidential all materials that shall come to be considered by it, having regard to the commercially sensitive aspects of the process, and relevant governing legislation".
As I stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 10 of 26 October 2006, contracts for the purchase of the interest of University College Dublin in the Earlsfort Terrace site were executed on 20 September 2006. University College Dublin has already transferred some of its personnel and functions to Belfield and will decant from the remainder in 2007. A lease-back arrangement has been put in place by the OPW with the college until late 2007, by which time the college will have fully vacated the premises.
I thank Mr. Philip Furlong, who I understand retires today, for all his help and assistance to me as party spokesperson. Will he continue to be chair of this committee and if not, has the Minister selected someone to replace him? Given his experience in the Department and the nature of the development I would welcome him remaining in this position.
This question appears to be tabled ad nauseam. Can the Minister outline a timeframe for the completion of the project? Will it take two, three or four years? Is it possible for the Minister to indicate a completion date of 2008, 2009 or whatever? That is what people in the tourism sector and lovers of music wish to hear.
Whether Mr. Furlong remains as chairman of the steering group will hinge on circumstances which have yet to unfold. It is not possible to say at this point what will be the case. I hope he will be in a position to continue as chairperson because, as Deputy Wall stated, he is a man of considerable experience. He was also successfully involved in the national conference centre.
Mr. Furlong retires today after a distinguished life in public service that began in 1961, when he joined the Civil Service as an executive officer, rising to Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Finance and Secretary General at the Department of Arts, Gaeltacht, Heritage and the Islands and Secretary General of the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism. On this auspicious occasion, I wish to record the outstanding achievement of Mr. Furlong. He was an outstanding civil servant and a man whose commitment, experience and knowledge is acknowledged throughout the public service.
Regarding the National Concert Hall, I cannot give an exact timeframe to Deputy Furlong——
I mean Deputy Wall. Maybe Mr. Furlong will be a Deputy later. He would be a great Minister because he helped me. Work is advanced on the accommodation brief of the redeveloped National Concert Hall project.
I acknowledge the contribution made by Mr. Philip Furlong, especially to the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism. He was accessible at all times to the Opposition and helpful. I wish Mr. Con Haugh the best in his new position. He will fill the shoes of Mr. Philip Furlong.
There will be surplus space when UCD medical and engineering faculties relocate to Belfield. The Royal Irish Academy of Music has requested accommodation on the site of the existing concert hall. Synergy would occur between the concert hall, the three performing spaces and the Royal Irish Academy of Music. This institution produces the talent of the future and it would be convenient for major international performers to interact with the students of the academy. The academy could put on major performances in the new concert hall. Has this possibility been explored and will the Minister consider my proposal?
I advised Deputy Deenihan that I would bring this proposal to the attention of the steering group and the board of the National Concert Hall. I have no update on the situation but will make inquiries about the current position and write to Deputy Deenihan.