Macroom Updates

What Future for Briery Gap?
Cork County Council, owners of the building that housed the Briery Gap Cultural Centre and Macroom Library up to May 2016 when a backstage fire in the theatre brought about its closure, have now estimated that its refurbishment would cost €4m. Insurance payout to the Council will only amount to c. €1.2m. They are prepared to contribute an extra €1m but that still leaves a shortfall of at least €1.8m if the upgraded theatre and Library, as proposed, is to go ahead. The extra costs of the refurbishment are totally due to regulatory requirements introduced by Government over the past number of years, such as proper disability access to the venue; health and safety requirements to cater for proper back stage separation areas for adults and children; storage space, office and administration facilities, additional toilet facilities and additional emergency exits, consistent with current building regulations. Escalating costs in building since the closure in 2016 add considerably to the total.
Briery Gap were lessees of the building but find they are without a venue for over two years and maybe many more. In 2017, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht granted them €0.25m. and the Briery Gap has a further €225,000 available from its fire claim which has been settled by its Insurers and this will be made available, totally separate to the claim by Cork County Council.
No damage was done to the Library by the fire. Nevertheless, the authorities declared that it had to be closed. All the stock was sent to Dublin to be defumigated. Christmas week 2016, the library re-opened in rented accommodation at Railway View and has been there ever since. A senior County Council official is reported as saying that without proper grant aid, the county council will only be able to reinstate the library at the Briery Gap, but not the theatre itself. One might ask how much public and insurance money has already been spent in moving the library, on rented accommodation, on various specialist studies. What real will is there to replace the Briery Gap? Obviously, should the Library go it alone in the building, the funds available to the Briery Gap from Insurance and Government grant would not be available to the County Council.
Macroom has already lost its local council and a host of businesses. Public morale is low. The theatre was a social centre as well as providing entertainment, education and attracting customers for local hotels and restaurants. The Taoiseach, Mr. Varadkar, was in the town on July 6 meeting and greeting the populace. We hope he took time to visit the Briery Gap Cultural Centre and listen attentively to appeals from local politicians for Government funding for this vital facility.
Post boom and bust, there now seems now to be a trend towards centralisation. Many Cork County services are already based in the city. While the Cork Events Centre, (a project whose agreed cost continues to escalate at an alarming rate), should seriously benefit Cork City and County if it goes ahead, Macroom and the Briery Gap need a state of the art venue in its own right. The Board of Directors, its Management, staff, volunteer cast/ staff put their hearts, souls and time into this project for 20 years to keep it on track and now end up with frustration and low morale. We call on our elected representatives to ramp up the pressure to bring this funding issue to a head and give us back our Theatre.
The current Board of the Briery Gap is made up of Noel O’Driscoll, Pat O’Connell, Martin Coughlan, Liz Barry, Cormac Shiel, John Vaughan, Don Buckley, Ian McDonagh and Paul Collins.