DUBLIN, 9 March 2020 – Dr. Frances Ruane, Chair of the Board of the Abbey Theatre, announced today that Máire O’Higgins, Breda O’Keeffe, Michael Owens and Michael West have been appointed to the board. The new appointments were confirmed at a meeting of the Abbey Theatre’s Board of Directors on Monday, 9 March 2020. 

Speaking about the announcement, Frances Ruane said: “It is our great pleasure to welcome four new members to the board, each bringing a wealth of specialist knowledge and experience. Following public advertising and a professional search process, we had a very strong field of applications to fill the four vacancies on the Abbey Theatre board.  We sought people whose skills and backgrounds would complement those of the current board members, and bring new expertise to support the theatre’s artistic ambition and help us achieve the goals in our five-year strategy (2019 – 2023). These goals include delivering outstanding artistic excellence, increasing access and opportunity to engage new audiences, advancing the role of Ireland’s national theatre throughout Ireland and around the world, and progressing plans to build a new theatre on our current site at Abbey Street.” 

Ruane added: 

Máire O’Higgins, with a career in the arts and education, spanning 30 years, brings to the board her experience of theatre making and education, along with her insights from working with communities across Dublin’s North East Inner City. She will assist the Abbey in its aims to develop new meaningful connections with local communities, to engage diverse audiences, and to deliver on our mission for a national theatre that serves all the people of Ireland.

Breda O’Keeffe brings her extensive skills in financial management, raising capital, governance and compliance, following over 30 years experience in senior financial roles in Ireland.  She has been Chief Financial Officer of RTÉ since 2012 and that experience will be invaluable to the Abbey Theatre as we grow our audiences and progress the building of the new national theatre, which is part of the government’s plans for the development of Ireland’s cultural infrastructure

Vhi’s former Director of Human Resources, Michael Owens, brings to the board many years of experience in HR best practice, senior management, and governance.  Michael has had strong connections with the arts sector in Ireland, having previously served on the board of Business to Arts for eight years, acting as its Chairperson for five years. He is deeply committed to promoting and sustaining culture’s vitally important place in the life of modern Ireland

As an acclaimed playwright, Michael West brings a powerful creative voice to the board, supporting the Abbey’s focus on new writing, enhanced artistic experience and building productive relationships with the wider theatrical community. Michael is also an educator, an experienced dramaturg, and he has a long-standing relationship with the Abbey Theatre. His work can currently be seen on the Abbey’s main stage in The Corn Exchange / Abbey Theatre co-production of The Fall of the Second Republic.”

With this announcement, the Abbey Theatre’s board of directors is now at full strength.  All current members of the board are:

  • Frances Ruane (Chair)
  • Jane Daly 
  • Loretta Dignam
  • Bosco Hogan
  • Peter Lowry
  • Máire O’Higgins
  • Breda O’Keeffe
  • Michael Owens
  • Kevin McFadden 
  • Michael Wall
  • Michael West

About the new board members: 

Máire O’Higgins
Máire is an Assistant Principal and Chaplain in Larkin Community College in Dublin’s North Inner City. She has worked in education, arts and community development for thirty years.  She has worked as a Director with Passion Machine Theatre Company, and was a founding member of Pigsback Theatre Company. 

Máire has led intergenerational initiatives for civic engagement, with the National Museum of Ireland and with Localise Volunteering, on whose board she served for ten years. 

Máire is on the North East Inner City Programme Implementation Board Steering Committee tasked with bringing diverse communities together to celebrate sustained civic and cultural engagement. 

Breda O’Keeffe

Breda O’Keeffe is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, with over 30 years professional experience.  A native of Kilkenny, she has held a number of senior financial positions in the private sector (including GPA, General Electric and Halifax Bank of Scotland). 

Breda joined RTÉ in 2002 as Finance Director of RTÉ Television.  In 2012, she was appointed Chief Financial Officer of RTÉ, where she dealt with significant financial challenges in media, requiring restructuring, managing change and raising capital. In 2013 she was also appointed board director of RTÉ Transmission Network Ltd and RTÉ Commercial Enterprise Limited. 

Michael Owens
Michael Owens is a HR professional, with extensive HR experience, recently retired as HR Director with Vhi Healthcare. Michael was on the board of Business to Arts for eight years and served as its Chairperson for five years. Michael has also been a board member with Junior Achievement, Vhi Swiftcare and Coyle Hamilton. 

He has contributed to HR Best Practice in Ireland through the CIPD where he was chair of the national  committee for four years. Michael has a BA in HR and a Post Graduate Diploma in Business and Executive Coaching. 

Michael West

Michael West is a playwright, adaptor and translator. In collaboration with Annie Ryan and The Corn Exchange, his work includes The Fall of the Second Republic, Dublin by Lamplight; Man of Valour; and Freefall

Other original work includes Conservatory, and FRNKNSTN, a mutation of Mary Shelley’s classic, written for Theatre Lovett, both of which premiered on the Peacock Stage at the Abbey Theatre. 

He was dramaturg on Webster’s The White Devil at the Globe, and Dead Centre’s Hamnet, which premiered at the Abbey Theatre. He has written plays for children and for radio. He teaches scriptwriting at Queen’s University Belfast. //ENDS