The Iveagh Market in Dublin's south inner city was repossessed by Lord Iveagh on Tuesday, Dublin City Council has said.
The council was notified by representatives for Lord Iveagh, a member of the Guinness family, that he had invoked the “reverter” clause contained in the original Deed of Conveyance dated July 1906.
“The council was informed that as the Iveagh Market building has ceased to be used as a market for a considerable number of years, Lord Iveagh has, in accordance with the terms contained in the Deed of Conveyance, repossessed the property this morning and notified the Council accordingly,” a spokesman for the council said.
“The council is considering the matter with its legal advisors.”
The market, which was built in the early 20th century by the Guinness family, has been derelict for more than 20 years and the subject of a legal battle between the council and businessman and hotelier Martin Keane.
An application from Mr Keane to redevelop the site in the Liberties was declared invalid by the council last January. He lodged an application to turn the Edwardian building on Francis Street into a European-style food hall, restaurants, a distillery, a brewery and crafts workshops in December 2019.
In a report to councillors in January, the council's head of planning Richard Shakespeare said the council was not satisfied Mr Keane had "secured the appropriate funding" for the project, and his application had been lodged "without the council's consent as landowner".
Mr Keane “claims to hold the freehold interest in the property which is untrue in relation to the Iveagh Markets element of the application”, Mr Shakespeare said.
The council had advised Mr Keane it is “terminating all communication with him, and that it is taking the necessary steps to repossess the property from him”.
The council “will defend this action in the courts if necessary”, said Mr Shakespeare.
The market was built to house street traders who had been displaced by the construction of the nearby Iveagh Trust housing development on Patrick Street, and was handed over in trust to Dublin Corporation.
By the 1980s the building had become very run down, and it eventually closed in the 1990s. In 1996, the council announced it was seeking a private developer to regenerate the market. The following year Mr Keane secured the tender, with an agreement that the title of the market would transfer to him once the redevelopment was completed.
However, the development became mired in an ownership row between the corporation and the Guinness family-controlled Iveagh Trust.
The dispute was not resolved until 2004. Mr Keane applied for planning permission, which was granted by An Bord Pleanála in 2007, but before he could act on it the recession hit.
In 2012, he secured a five-year extension of planning permission, which expired in 2017. That year the council voted to take back control of the market from Mr Keane.
The council subsequently commissioned a report on the condition of the building from conservation architects Howley Hayes, which found that "essential structural repairs" alone would cost €13 million.
Mr Shakespeare last year told councillors the council did not have the money and the “most efficient way” forward for the market would be for Mr Keane to redevelop it.