City councillors block sale of Dublin's Plough Pub

Council wanted to sell Plough Pub for construction of apartments it would then rent

The Plough Pub, on the corner of Marlborough Street and Lower Abbey Street, Dublin, had been a popular meeting spot for theatre goers, but closed more than a decade ago. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The Plough Pub, on the corner of Marlborough Street and Lower Abbey Street, Dublin, had been a popular meeting spot for theatre goers, but closed more than a decade ago. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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Plans to sell the historic Plough Pub opposite the Abbey Theatre in Dublin for €550,000 have been blocked by Dublin city councillors.

The council wanted to sell the pub, which it has owned since 2017, so it could be redeveloped as apartments. The council proposed to then lease the apartments from the private developer for use as social housing.

However, councillors said the proposal to sell the council-owned pub represented a “giveaway” of public land, and said the council should develop the social housing itself.

The pub, at the corner of Abbey Street and Marlborough Street, had been a popular meeting spot for theatre goers, but closed more than a decade ago. The four-storey Victorian building, which is on the record of protected structures, became increasingly dilapidated and by 2014 had been boarded up.

In 2017 the council bought the pub to stop it from falling into further decay. “The property was in a derelict condition, boarded up and infested with rodents and pigeons,” it said. An inspection noted parts of the roof were missing with a “large number of plastic bags containing bird droppings stored throughout the building”.

The council had initially hoped to reach a deal with the Abbey Theatre, which had “expressed an interest in utilising the buildings when refurbished”. However no agreement was reached.

In 2018 the council spent approximately €70,000 on structural repairs, but despite these emergency works the structural condition “continuously deteriorated” and represented a “serious financial risk and burden to the council”.

It put the pub on the market at €650,000 in 2019 but accepted a bid of €550,000 and agreed to lease back the six apartments which were expected to developed.

‘It’s a giveaway’

While the council had not established rent levels for the apartments, Independent councillor Nial Ring said it was likely to pay upwards of €150,000 annually.

“I feel we are giving away a property when we should be building these ourselves. If we build them ourselves we have them forever.”

Council director of services Coilín O’Reilly said public procurement rules meant it would be several years before the council could develop the building.

“Working with private sector intervention, in six months’ time we could have six families living there. The reality is if we take this on it could be two years or three years.”

He said the deal on the building was the best the council could get and the developers would be taking on the risks of the scheme: “There is no point in saying it’s worth more if no one is willing to pay us more.”

Independent councillor Cieran Perry said there was “no risk here at all for the private sector, it’s a giveaway.”

Councillors refused to approve the sale. When asked by The Irish Times what it had paid for the building in 2017 the council said: “This information is commercially sensitive in the context of the regeneration plans for the area.”