High-rise housing debate between Ronan and McDonald falls flat

Online debate between McDonald and Ronan proves damp squib

‘The Irish residential sector is being commodified for international capital investment,’ Frank McDonald claims

What was billed as a clash between journalist Frank McDonald and developer Johnny Ronan on the issue of high-rise development turned into something of a damp squib yesterday.

The online debate, hosted by UCD’s architectural discussion platform Current, pitted Ronan, the developer behind the proposed 40-plus-storey tower scheme for Dublin’s docklands, and McDonald, its biggest critic.

The duo have been debating the merits of the scheme – currently before An Bord Pleanála – including in articles in The Irish Times.

But as McDonald was making his opening remarks yesterday, Ronan, who appeared to be tuning in from the side of the road while out cycling, lost his connection and failed to re-emerge.


This left McDonald debating with several Ronan Group associates, including Tom Phillips, planning consultant to Ronan, and Paul O'Brien chairman of Henry J Lyons Architects, the architectural firm behind the project.

Out of kilter

McDonald claimed the scheme was a typical example of “developer-led planning” and was wholly out of kilter with the human scale of the city.

“The Irish residential sector is being commodified for international capital investment,” he said.

Phillips and O’Brien defended the scheme, saying Dublin was now competing on an international stage, and that the development was not excessive by European standards and could be a key part of the city’s future housing supply.

The debate, however, failed to add much to the views already aired.

Ronan Group and its financial backers are seeking to construct three buildings on the 1.1 hectare site, with one reaching 45-storeys high and a second 44-storeys tall. Some 1,005 apartments feature as part of the plan.

Plans for the scheme have been submitted to An Bord Pleanála under the Government’s fast-track development process.

The tallest point of the proposed development would stand at 155 metres, dwarfing the current highest point in Dublin, Liberty Hall, which stands 59.4 metres. The debate rages on as to whether this scheme is long overdue, as Roan would argue, or vastly overscaled, as per McDonald’s view. An Bord Pleanála will soon have its say on the controversial project.