Plans for enlarged Irish Jewish Museum approved

Some residents dismayed as An Bord Pleanála passes expansion plans for Dublin building by majority decision

Some residents of Dublin's Portobello area have reacted with dismay to a decision by An Bord Pleanála to approve plans for a much larger Irish Jewish Museum on the site of five terraced Victorian houses on Walworth Road.

By five votes to three, the appeals board decided to grant permission for the proposed development — which had the support of Taoiseach Enda Kenny — saying it would “not seriously injure” the visual or residential amenities of the area

Rejecting 11 separate appeals by local residents against the scheme, the board took the view that it would not injure property in the vicinity or pose a risk of flooding due to a 6m deep basement excavation and would be “acceptable” in terms of traffic.

It set revised conditions, including a full architectural survey of the exteriors and interiors of the buildings proposed for demolition, a limit on the height of rooftop plant and a “mobility management plan” to encourage the use of sustainable transport.


The board said it took into account the pattern of development in the vicinity, the established synagogue and museum use and historic cultural connections with the area, the planning history of the site and the overall design of the proposed development.

In his 77-page report on the case, which included a three-day oral hearing, senior An Bord Pleanála planning inspector Tom Rabbette concluded that the expanded museum would be “a significant cultural asset to Portobello and the city”.

Unusually, the scheme was designed by architects at the Office of Public Works, after it was requested to assist the Irish Jewish Museum trustees by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Such tangible political support was reiterated by Mr Kenny.

However, it was opposed by the local Fine Gael councillor, Kieran Binchy, who criticised the proposed demolition and reconstruction of the synagogue as "a Disneyland version of conservation". Others opposing it included Fianna Fáil Cllr Jim O'Callaghan.

One of the local objectors, Catherine Marshall said: “We are pretty devastated as we thought we had put up a series of arguments which had not been addressed by the applicant or the planners ... and so we find the verdict very difficult to understand.”

Describing An Bord Pleanála’s decision to override Mr Rabbette’s recommendation that the museum opening hours be restricted as a “final slap in the face to the residents”, she said the 11 appellants would now consider “what our options are”.

Normally, decisions by the appeals board can only be judicially reviewed in the High Court where a point of law is involved.

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former environment editor