The current joint directors of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin are to step down at the end of their contract period next year.

Neil Murray and Graham McLaren were appointed joint directors five years ago and this expires in July 2021.

In a statement the Abbey Theatre board announced that it will soon advertise for the posts of executive director and artistic director. The five-year contracts will begin next July.

"In view of the challenges and opportunities in the coming years, and following consideration of its strategy and its leadership requirements for that period, the board has decided that this new leadership structure is in the best interests of the national theatre".

The board added that further information will be available once the posts are advertised.

Mr Murray and Mr McLaren took over leadership of the theatre from former director Fiach Mac Conghail.

However, the directors who had been based in Scotland became embroiled in controversy last December when 427 actors, directors and other theatre workers signed a letter of concern to then minister for culture Josepha Madigan.

Those who signed the letter claimed a promise to put on more Irish work had been reneged upon.

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