Move by Sisters of Charity to rezone Merrion Road land would boost its value to €50m

Order controversially closed St Mary’s and Caritas care centres in 2020

The Religious Sisters of Charity have urged planners to allow housing on their land at Merrion Road in south Dublin, in a move that could value the site at €50 million if it is sold for residential development.

The order’s application to Dublin City Council comes less than two years after the closure of a nursing home and convalescent home at the Dublin 4 campus led to big job losses.

The property, adjacent to St Vincent’s hospital complex and the new national maternity hospital site, is described as being in a “prime” suburban location. The nuns have had a presence there since the 1860s, when they opened a home for the “Destitute Catholic Blind”.

In a formal submission to the council, they said the site buildings are physically and functionally obsolete and argued that “underutilised” land opens up an opportunity to deliver “high quality residential development and address housing need”.

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Advisers to the Sisters asked to change the zoning on about 4 hectares (9.88 acres) of its 6.55-hectare campus to reflect the “future development potential” of institutional lands.

Citing nearby sales of housing land for €5 million per acre, a senior property industry source estimated that the nuns’ site could fetch “€50 million-plus” with zoning for homes.

A spokeswoman for the order had no comment on the submission.

The order placed St Mary’s nursing home and the Caritas convalescent home at Merrion Road in liquidation in July 2020, a move that proved controversial. It also shut St Monica’s nursing home at Belvedere Place, Dublin. The order said funds were not available to pay staff a full redundancy package.

Seán McElhinney, assistant general secretary at the union Fórsa which represented staff at the three sites, said “approximately 208 workers” were made redundant. They only received a statutory redundancy payment, the minimum required by law “and were offered a €3,000 ‘goodwill’ payment on a take-it-or-leave-it basis”, he said. “The news that the site is to be monetised will only serve to rub salt in the wounds of the workers who have lost so much.”

The Sisters of Charity ran five industrial schools investigated by the Ryan Commission and offered €5 million towards the costs of the State redress scheme for survivors. Just €2 million was contributed, the last payment being made in 2013.

They also ran two Magdalene Laundries at Donnybrook, Dublin, and Peacock Lane, Cork. They declined to contribute to the State redress scheme for women who had been in the laundries. All four religious congregations which ran the 10 laundries operating in Ireland up to 1996 declined to do so.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times