Objection lodged to removal of religious artefacts from chapel where development planned

Application states ‘altars, confession box, crucifix, plaque, pews, tabernacle, statues and stations of the cross’ due to be removed

A woman has lodged an objection to the removal of religious artefacts from a chapel in the site of the former Holy Cross seminary on Clonliffe Road in north Dublin, where one of the largest real estate investment companies in the world is planning a large build-to-rent development.

The removal of the artefacts and protected structures constitutes a "sacking of this sanctuary" so that it can be turned into an "amusement facility", Foxrock, south Co Dublin resident Fionuala Sherwin claimed in her objection.

“I vigorously object to the “sacking of this sanctuary” and the gutting of the interior of Holy Cross Chapel and the “conversion” of it into an “amenity” or amusement facility,” she said.

“I also strongly object to the surreptitious and secret surrender and handover of Church properties and lands to the largest investment or vulture fund in the world, for their profits.”


The objection was lodged against an application submitted by the St Laurence O’Toole Diocesan Trust, a body associated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. The trust is in the process of selling the site on Clonliffe Road, Dublin 3.

The site is being bought by the Hines property and investment group, which is based in Houston, Texas, and has assets valued at $83.6 billion (€72.3 billion) under management, according to its website.

The group intends to build 1,600 build-to-rent apartments on the site, by way of a collective asset management vehicle called CWTC Multi-Family ICAV.

The diocesan trust sold the site to the GAA for €95 million and it in turn has sold some of the site to Hines, while also planning to develop a hotel and other works on the former seminary lands.

In her objection, Ms Sherwin “earnestly requested” Dublin City Council to refuse planning permission sought by the trust for the removal of 11 artefacts of a liturgical and religious nature from Holy Cross Church, a protected structure.

In a judgment of the High Court in 2007 in a case brought by Ms Sherwin against An Bord Pleanála, the court found that alterations to the interior of the church of St Peter and Paul in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, did require planning permission, even if they were prompted by changes in Catholic liturgical practice.

In her objection to the Clonliffe Road application, Ms Sherwin said the lands were donated to the Catholic Church in 1859 and that such property can only be transferred, in exceptional circumstances, to entities with the same ethos.

“They can not be gifted, sold off privately, to any entities such as CWTC...or Hines developers or any other financial or private international company for profit.”

The archbishops, “especially” former Catholic archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, have “no moral authority or moral right to do what they are doing today”, she added.

The artefacts to be removed from the Holy Cross chapel, according to the application, are “altars, confession box, crucifix, plaque, pews, tabernacle, statues and stations of the cross”.

Ms Sherwin, in her objection, said that if the bishops were teaching the faith as was their duty “we would have full seminaries with students studying for the priesthood and thousands of souls would be saved from eternal damnation.”

In her objection she strongly objected to the actions of the hierarchy and in particular retired Archbishop Martin, while also criticising the closure of churches at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She also criticised the manner in which the Clonliffe Road site had been sold, and called for greater transparency on the part of the diocesan trust.

A request for a comment from the archdiocese met with no response.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent