Doubts over reconstruction of O’Rahilly house

Council may not have ‘legal mechanism’ to force reinstatement, says planning chief

Orders for the reconstruction of the O’Rahilly house, which was demolished last week, might not be enforceable, Dublin City Council’s head of planning has said.

Councillors on Monday night approved a joint Sinn Féin and Green Party motion calling for the the “the immediate restoration of the house” at 40 Herbert Park, the former home of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, the only leader to have been killed fighting during the 1916 Rising.

The house was last week levelled by Derryroe Ltd, a company owned by the McSharry and Kennedy families, who own the Herbert Park Hotel.

The council has initiated legal action against the developers over the demolition, but assistant chief executive and head of planning Richard Shakespeare, on Tuesday said the council might not legally be a position to force the reconstruction of the house.

“In relation to the call for the immediate reinstatement of No 40 Herbert Park, whilst this is technically possible, it would be prohibitively expensive and there is doubt as to whether there is a legal mechanism to have the building reinstated as it was not on the RPS [record of protected structures ].”

Architectural integrity

Councillors last month voted to have the house added to the RPS, but the building was demolished before it was assessed by the council’s conservation section.

Mr Shakespeare added that, at this point, the reconstruction of the house could only result in the creation of a “pastiche” of the original Edwardian building.

“The architectural integrity of the original building would be lost. It is well established that the pastiche reconstruction of a building is not in keeping with best conservation practice,” he said.

Derryroe last May applied to An Bord Pleanála for an apartment development on the site of 40 Herbert Park. Councillors, heritage groups, relatives of 1916 leaders, including O'Rahilly's grandson Proinsias Ó Rathaille, and local residents objected to the development, which included the demolition of the house.

However, the council’s planning department advised the board to grant the demolition of the house, noting it was not on the RPS.

The council’s conservation office twice tried to assess whether the house merited addition to the RPS but was denied access. The council has confirmed solicitors for the developers “questioned the council’s right to interfere with property rights” or with the integrity of the planning process that was under way. However, the council told the solicitors it had an entitlement to pursue the RPS process.

Legal proceedings

On September 8th the board granted permission for the demolition. On September 14th the councillors voted to add the building to the RPS. Earlier that day the developers had lodged a “commencement notice” with the council for the demolition of the house. The following day that notice was validated by the council’s building control section.

Early on September 29th the house was demolished. A planning enforcement official attended the site and ordered work to stop. Last Thursday, the council initiated legal proceedings against the developer for “wilfully or recklessly submitting information to the Building Control Authority which was false or misleading”.

On Friday the council also issued an enforcement notice for starting development prior to complying with the conditions of planning permission.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times