Abbey's new director spells out vision

The new director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach Mac Conghail, vowed tonight to create a shared vision for the future of the historic venue.

The current advisor to Arts Minister John O’Donoghue said he faced a major challenge as he prepared to take up his role at the end of the year.

“I am very grateful to the board for placing their trust in me at this critical point in the Abbey’s development,” Mr Conghail said.

“It is a tremendous challenge and I look forward to working with writers, theatre artists and the staff of the Abbey in creating a shared vision for the next five years.”

As Director, Mr Mac Conghail will assume overall artistic and management responsibility and will work with current Artistic Director, Ben Barnes, and Managing Director Brian Jackson until Mr Barnes completes his term of office at the end of 2005.

Abbey Board Chairman Eithne Healy said she was delighted to announce Mr Mac Conghail’s appointment from a field of strong Irish and international candidates.

“We are convinced that Fiach has the artistic vision, experience, skills, personal qualities and commitment to lead the theatre through a period of fundamental restructuring and renewal,” she said.

“This appointment signals change in a number of ways. In creating the position of Director the Board has decided to establish a new senior management structure with clear lines of decision-making, authority and accountability.

“It is also the first time in many years that a producer rather than a theatre director has been appointed to lead the Abbey. We believe that Fiach’s blend of artistic and management expertise is exactly what the Abbey needs at this time.”

Outgoing director Ben Barnes congratulated Mr Mac Conghail on his appointment.

“I look forward to working with him throughout the remainder of this year to ensure a smooth transition to the next administration,” he added.

Mr Mac Conghail was Artistic Director of Project Arts Centre from 1992 to 1999 and served as Ireland’s Cultural Director at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany.

He managed the redevelopment of the Irish College in Paris as a flagship Cultural Centre in 2001/02 and was appointed Commissioner of the Cultural Programme for Ireland’s Presidency of the EU in 2004.

Born and raised in Dublin, Mr Mac Conghail was educated in Scoil Lorcán and Coláiste Eoin. He is a native Irish speaker and graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1988 with an honours degree in Politics and Sociology.

Mr Mac Conghail has worked on numerous productions at the Gaiety Theatre, the Abbey Theatre and on Broadway.

He has also produced a number of short films and is currently producing the feature film, ‘Studs’, written and directed by Paul Mercier and starring Brendan Gleeson, which is due to be released later this year.

Mr Mac Conghail has been Arts Advisor to the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism since September 2002.

He was awarded the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship in 2003 and is married to actress Bríd Ní Neachtain with whom he has two daughters.

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