Plans for the demolition of the home of 1916 Rising leader The O'Rahilly in Ballsbridge, Dublin, have been lodged with An Bord Pleanála.
The McSharry and Kennedy building families, owners of the Herbert Park Hotel, want to build an aparthotel and 105 apartments fronting on to Herbert Park on the site of three Edwardian villas.
Two of the houses, numbers 36 and 38 Herbert Park, have recently been demolished. The last remaining house, number 40, was the home of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, known as The O’Rahilly, the only leader of the Rising to die in battle.
The house was built in 1907 for the World’s Fair Irish International Exhibition to promote Irish industry. The O’Rahilly was the first occupant of number 40 in 1909 and his widow, Nancy, lived there until her death in 1961.
Lordglen Ltd, the hotel owners' development company, was in 2018 granted permission for the demolition of numbers 36 and 38 as part of the extension of an aparthotel, and 18 apartments in two blocks. However, this scheme never went ahead. The company subsequently bought number 40 and is now seeking to demolish it and redevelop the site of all three houses.
‘Lost for words’
Proinsias O’Rahilly, a grandson of The O’Rahilly and a member of the 1916 Relatives Alliance, said he was “lost for words” that the demolition of the house was being pursued. He said it should be listed on the record of protected structures (RPS) and be declared a National Monument to preserve it from destruction.
“The meetings which took place in the house played a pivotal role in the foundation of the State,” he said.
Roger Casement, Éamon de Valera, James Connolly and Michael Collins were among those who met in the house and as late as the 1970s a revolver belonging to Collins was discovered in its rafters, Mr O'Rahilly said.
However, an architectural heritage report submitted on behalf of Derryroe, another of the hotel owners’ companies, said the house is “not of significant architectural or heritage value”.
While the association with Michael and Nancy O’Rahilly “adds some historical interest to No 40, it is not considered a particularly significant site in respect of the events of the inauguration of either the Irish Volunteer Force or Cumann na mBan,” it said.
The developers propose to commemorate the former residents with a plaque.
Sinn Féin councillor Micheál Mac Donncha has submitted a motion to Dublin City Council to have number 40 added to the RPS. He said no demolition should be permitted before it could be assessed for listing. The redevelopment plans will be presented to Dublin city councillors on Monday.
“It is amazing that anyone would say that this in not a building of major historical significance. As the last home of The O’Rahilly and a house where key meetings in relation to the 1916 meeting took place, it is clearly of major significance,” Mr Mac Donncha said.