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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Leah Farrell Bus Éireann buses at Busáras station in Dublin.
Eblana Theatre

Dublin's Eblana Theatre to be converted into training centre for Bus Éireann staff

The proposed change of use of the facility is part of Bus Éireann’s plans to move its headquarters from Broadstone to Busáras.

THE FORMER EBLANA Theatre is set to become a new training centre for Bus Éireann staff, despite strong objections by the Arts Council about the potential loss of a cultural venue in Dublin.

Dublin City Council has granted planning permission to Bus Éireann to go ahead with its plans to make major alterations to Dublin’s central bus station at Busáras including changes to the Eblana Theatre which is located in the basement of the building.

The proposed change of use of the facility to a training centre is part of Bus Éireann’s plans to move its headquarters from its current location in Broadstone to Busáras.

Council planners had sought further information from Bus Éireann on the justification for the loss of an existing theatre space as planning policy requires it to protect the cultural and artistic use of buildings in established cultural quarters as far as possible.

In response, the company said the theatre had not been accessible to the public and CIÉ staff for nearly 30 years and public awareness of its existence had diminished over that time.

However, Bus Éireann acknowledged that it retained a curiosity value even in its abandoned state by those who were aware of the theatre.

It said the space when converted to a training centre would retain its original proportions ensuring the change of use would be reversible, while the company claimed the space could potentially be used on an occasional basis for cultural uses such as performance and exhibitions.

Bus Éireann said the wider changes to the iconic, Michael Scott-designed building would allow for the full use of the public concourse in Busáras to be used for artistic and cultural events.

The company said it planned to use some of the space to display corporate history and memorabilia including historic CIÉ posters and photographs.

The council imposed a condition to the grant of planning permission which requires Bus Éireann to retain the original light fittings on the theatre’s ceiling and to ensure the integrity of the theatre space is respected and maintained.

It also requires the State-owned bus company to place the five rows of seating in the Eblana into safe storage and to ensure that all works within the theatre space are reversible.

Council planners remarked that said the loss of the Eblana Theatre as a small and intimate performance venue was “regrettable.”

However, they said they had no objection to the plans as the alterations to the interior of Busáras are reversible.

The Arts Council had objected to Bus Éireann’s plans over concerns that the proposed changes would result in the permanent loss of the original use and architectural character of the Eblana Theatre which has been closed since 1995.

Arts Council director, Maureen Kennelly, said the proposed development “does not take sufficient account of the historic and cultural status of the building and its place in Irish architecture culture”, although she acknowledged that it was currently “in poor repair and not in use.”

She claimed some buildings had “value and meaning to society beyond their function or economic value.”

The Arts Council noted that Busáras is rated as a building of international status by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Kennelly claimed Busáras already had “a history of inappropriate small changes” with which the current proposal could have a cumulative negative impact on a unique building.

Busáras – otherwise known as Áras Mhic Dhiarmada which is also home to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection – was built between 1947 and 1953 and is one of the first major works of modern architecture in post-war Europe and one of the first modern buildings to integrate art and architecture with its interior containing mosaics by the artist, Patrick Scott.

Michael Scott’s vision for Busáras as a major civic building included plans for a nightclub on the top floor as well as a newsreel cinema, a crèche and a barber’s.

A conservation report noted the Eblana Theatre was effectively locked in a “time capsule” with unopened soft drink bottles in the bar area and a poster for the Lee Dunne play “Goodbye to the Hill” at the entrance.

Under the latest plans, the current left luggage areas in the basement of Busáras will be converted into a staff gym and changing rooms, while there will be new staff offices on the ground floor and the mezzanine level will operate as the new headquarters office for Bus Éireann.

Seán McCárthaigh
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