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The Abbey Theatre's big move

A new government proposal would move the storied theater to the historic General Post Office.

The move to the docklands was proposed back in 2001 by the board of the Abbey and last year Abbey director Fiach Mac Conghail stated his preference for this site over the GPO. The government has already spent €630,000 ($950,000) on consultancy fees and preparatory work for a move to the docklands but has now evidently changed its mind.

With the centenary of the Easter Rising due in 2016, the idea of marking it by a dramatic merger of the two icons of independence seems to be taking hold. At a “grim, sordid and dreary time” in Irish history, said Sen. Eoghan Harris in the parliament’s upper chamber last week, it would be good if members could leave behind two great monuments: “the Abbey Theatre in O’Connell Street and a cut in their pay to give leadership, as the men of 1916 did.”

What no one disputes is that the present Abbey Theater, opened in 1966 after the original building was destroyed by fire, is a disgrace. It is too small, has poor acoustics and the backstage facilities are notoriously cramped.

For the record the Yeats quotation about his words sending men out to be shot is from his 1938 poem "The Man and the Echo." The relevant lines are: “I lie awake night after night/ And never get the answers right. Did that play of mine send out/ Certain men the English shot? Did words of mine put too great strain/ On that woman's reeling brain?/ Could my spoken words have checked/ That whereby a house lay wrecked?”

Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon responded half a century later: “If Yeats had saved his pencil-lead/ would certain men have stayed in bed?”