Council purchase of Seán O’Casey’s last Dublin home stalls

Dispute among owners understood to have halted sale of playwright’s house to city council

The purchase of the last Dublin home of playwright Seán O'Casey by Dublin City Council, planned more than two years ago, has not gone ahead.

The local authority has in minutes circulated to councillors said a family dispute was slowing acquisition of the property.

The council last November announced it had finalised the purchase of the house at 422 North Circular Road, where O'Casey wrote his best known work.

However, its head of housing Brendan Kenny confirmed it has been unable to complete the purchase. It is understood a dispute between a number of parties involved in the ownership of the building has prevented the sale from going ahead.

“It is disappointing. We are still willing to buy it, but at the moment nothing is happening and it has become very difficult,” Mr Kenny said.

The council in March 2019 said it intended to buy the house where O’Casey lived in the early 1920s, and wrote his Dublin trilogy: The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock, and The Plough and the Stars.

However, the sale stalled and in June of last year the council said it was unlikely to proceed due to coronavirus funding constraints. The following month, Mr Kenny said funding had been secured and the council intended to buy the house for emergency homeless accommodation.

The house had gone on the market in 2018 for €450,000 but was withdrawn. Early last year it was again offered for sale for €625,000 despite its condition having deteriorated in the intervening years. The house was also broken into while it was left vacant and its basement level had to be boarded up.

It is understood the council had agreed to pay in the region of €750,000 for the building which could cost more than €1 million to refurbish and convert into homeless accommodation.

Cultural and arts centre

Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D Higgins, last year proposed the house be turned into a cultural and arts centre.

She suggested a “major fundraising drive aimed at the public, targeting philanthropic and academic and other sympathetic institutions, both in Ireland and abroad”, to acquire the house, but said if the building were in the ownership of the council State funds might be secured for its use as a “cultural hub”.

Mr Kenny said if the council is eventually in a position to acquire the building it will be used for homeless accommodation.

O’Casey lived in a ground-floor room in the house. His fellow tenants provided inspiration for several of his characters, including Mollser Gogan, and Captain and Juno Boyle.

The property is not registered with the Land Registry and it has not been possible for The Irish Times to make contact with its owners.