The development group that owns the site in Stoneybatter, Dublin, that was the focus of an eviction attempt on Wednesday, wants to build 166 build-to-rent apartments on it, according to a planning submission considered by An Bord Pleanála earlier this year.
The McGrath Group was issued with a High Court order by Dublin City Council, instructing it to remove squatters from the site on Prussia Street, the group said in a statement to The Irish Times.
The group was legally required to keep the site vacant because of the council’s concerns about “serious fire and safety risks and the overall poor condition of the existing buildings,” it said.
It said squatters of the site left when asked without incident on Wednesday morning, including people in camper vans with foreign registrations.
It said electricity cables were lying on the ground and connected in a haphazard manner. There was also, it said, evidence of “bonfires with flammable materials including adjacent drums of oil and building materials”.
When gardaí arrived, the group said, some of the squatters were allowed re-enter the site to collect possessions.
“They removed various property including a large number of plants, a 40ft container of power tools and approximately 100 bicycles,” the group said.
Staff made the site safe, the group said, and ensured the site could not be re-occupied.
It was essential that the site could not be re-occupied “to protect lives,” the group said.
Posts on social media indicated that the site had been re-occupied on Wednesday, with protesters gathering outside.
The occupants of the site, which includes one building that is due to be demolished, complained that items of their furniture, toilets and bedding had been destroyed.
The McGrath Group submission to Bord Pleanála for the site was lodged in May. In July the planning authority said it required further consideration.
The consultation document was submitted under the terms of the strategic housing development regime, which was introduced to speed up major housing developments in an effort to ease the housing crisis.
Randalswood Construction Ltd, which is part of the McGrath Group, said it wanted to demolish the existing building on the Stoneybatter site, number 23 Prussia Street.
The McGrath Group is at an advanced planning stage in relation to the scheme on Prussia Street that will include “a host of residential amenities including a cafe, cinema room, gym and concierge”, according to its website.
The proposed start date for the scheme is the third quarter of 2022.
More than 20 gardaí and several squad cars were present at the scene on Wednesday, with roadblocks set up on two streets, while a Garda helicopter flew overhead. Violence broke out when gardaí began to clear the protesters.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said there was no legal basis for An Garda Síochána facilitating evictions.
“An eviction is a civil matter unless there is criminal behaviour,” said Doireann Ansbro, the council’s head of legal and policy.
She said the Garda Commissioner should clarify whether the Garda response was proportionate.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the gardaí said they had attended the scene where “a property owner, in compliance with a court order, was securing a premises and facilitating access to persons to remove personal items”.
The McGrath Group is a privately-owned investment and development group that operates in Ireland, the UK and Germany, according to its website.
The group is currently involved in developments in Dún Laoghaire, Monkstown, Dublin 20, Dublin 22, Naas in Co Kildare and Dundalk in Co Louth, according to its website.
The directors of Randalswood Construction are PJ McGrath (66), Thomas McGrath (61), and Mary McGrath (57), who are the ultimate controlling parties behind Randalswood Holdings Ltd, which owns Randalswood Construction. They are also the directors and shareholders of other McGrath group companies here and in the UK.