A planned €2.6 million refurbishment of Waterford’s Theatre Royal was described by an outspoken local public representative this week as “a tinkering job” compared to the fancy €33 million development that is Wexford’s new Opera House.

Cllr Mary Roche advocated that Waterford should seek similar type funding to revamp its theatre on a grand scale rather than carrying out renovations which would inevitably be followed by others in the near future. Surely, she said, Minister Cullen could be of assistance in the matter.

She was speaking after City Manager Michael Walsh outlined plans for modifications, recommended by the design team, to a Theatre Royal refurbishment programme agreed last March.

He said grant aid of nearly €1 million had been agreed and the Council was to provide matching funds. But now he would seek additional aid from the central exchequer.

He said the design team was working away and contract documents would be ready by the end of this month. The job would then go to tender and he expected that a contractor would be on site by the end of November.

Closure of the theatre prevented Waterford Festival of Light Opera from celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and Cllr. Roche expressed doubts as to whether it would be ready for next year’s event either and there was a danger the city would lose the festival altogether.

Cllr Davy Walsh, the Council’s representative on the Theatre Royal Board, said they were seeking a meeting with Mr. Cullen and he was hopeful of getting sufficient funding to make the theatre a much better and more comfortable facility. He said they were restricted by the fact that the building was one of the very few Victorian theatres in the country and its character had to be protected.