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Gabriel Byrne made honorary director of Dublin’s Grand Canal Square Theatre

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Hollywood actor Gabriel Byrne returned to his native Dublin this week to lay the first boards for the stage of a new city theatre.

The Grand Canal Square Theatre, part of a major docklands project by local impresario and developer Harry Crosbie, has been designed by award-winning architect Daniel Libeskind, the man chosen for the redesign of New York’s World Trade Centre. Building work on the theatre has already started and the aim is to have it completed by next March 17, St Patrick’s Day.

Byrne and his namesake, Gay Byrne, the former Late Late Show host, were appointed honorary directors of the theatre for the board laying ceremony. With seating for 2,100, it will be city’s largest venue since the Theatre Royal, which closed back in the 1960s. The theatre will be run by Live Nation and managing director Mike Adamson said it would enable Dublin to stage major international productions in ballet and opera.

Emphasising the importance of the project, at a time of threatened cutbacks in the arts, Gabriel Byrne said: “Every village, every city, needs a theatre. It changes the way we view society and connects us to global ideas. In the past, we’ve suffered from being closed off.”

The threatened cutbacks were also the dominant theme at the programme launch for this year’s Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival, from September 24-October 11. Some 26 shows from 12 different countries are planned, with new plays by Sebastian Barry and Michael West, plus a Conor McPherson adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier short story, The Birds, among the highlights.

Festival chairman Peter Crowley said that the continuing quality of the event, even in straitened times, “reinforces the importance of having a minister for the arts”. Arts Council chair Pat Moylan had a similar message. “If we hope to be a society with a vibrant economy, we need the arts,” she said.

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