Seán O’Casey’s last Dublin home bought by city council to house homeless

Councillors to propose that playwright’s house be used as a cultural centre

422 North Circular Road, Seán O’Casey’s last residence. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

422 North Circular Road, Seán O’Casey’s last residence. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

The last Dublin home of playwright Seán O’Casey, where he wrote his best known work, has finally been bought by Dublin City Council.

The council plans to use the house at 422 North Circular Road for homeless accommodation. However, Labour councillors will propose a motion at the next city council meeting calling for the house to be turned into a community, cultural and arts venue.

The councillors’ proposal is supported by a number of artists and historians as well as Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D Higgins.

More than a year and a half ago, the council 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 last June the council said it was unlikely to proceed due to coronavirus funding constraints, and a reduction in need for homeless accommodation.

The following month, the council’s head of housing, Brendan Kenny, said funding had been secured and the council intended to buy the house for emergency accommodation.

Refurbish

In recent days the council has completed the sale.

The house had gone on the market in 2018 for €450,000 but was earlier this year offered for sale for €625,000 despite its condition having deteriorated in the intervening years. The house was also broken into last year and its basement level is now boarded up.

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

However, Labour councillors Dermot Lacey and Joe Costello are proposing a motion for the next city council meeting that the house should become “a vibrant community, cultural and arts venue” with a view to “honouring the incredibly important work of Seán O’Casey”.

Funding

Mr Kenny said the building had been “bought for homeless purposes” and any change to that would require new funding.

“I am open to it being used for cultural purposes if the people proposing that can find the money,” he said. Mr Kenny said it would be “probably difficult” to accommodate cultural and homeless use of the building simultaneously.

Mrs Higgins had previously 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”.

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.