The Director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach Mac Conghail, has defended the theatre's 2016 centenary programme, Waking the Nation, following criticism over its perceived lack of female writers and directors. 

He defended his choices in a series of tweets this afternoon saying that he was "sorry" that no female playwrights were included in next year's season but said he wasn't "going to produce a play that is not ready and undermine the writer". 

Mac Conghail also pointed out that the Abbey has produced nine plays by women since 2008 though he did apologise over the failure to include any Irish language plays in Waking the Nation.

The theatre unveiled its programme yesterday and it includes three new world premieres along with revivals of well-known classics such as Sean O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars, The Wake by Tom Murphy and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme by Frank McGuinness.

However, all the works in the main programme are by male playwrights and only two of the plays, Cyprus Avenue and The Wake, have a female director. Ali White has written a 'childrens' monologue' for its Community and Education programme.

Yesterday there was criticism of the programme's lack of gender balance on social media including comments from actor Brían F O'Byrne (Love/Hate, Intermission, Million Dollar Baby) and novelist Belinda McKeon. However, Mac Conghail's explanation today has still left some commentators unimpressed.