One-third of State residences in parks and public spaces are vacant
Social Democrat TD calls for the properties to be restored for holiday lets or long-term rental
Castletown House and Demesne contains four occupied properties.
One-third of residences owned by the State in parks and public spaces are vacant and a majority of the empty properties are in poor condition, it has emerged.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for 61 dwellings and lodges in 19 locations across the State.
Twenty of the 61 properties in State care are empty. The Phoenix Park has 43 residences including Áras an Uachtaráin and three in the Farmleigh estate. All three Farmleigh residences are occupied but six properties in the park are vacant.
Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW Kevin “Boxer” Moran said of the vacant residences: “This is mainly due to the poor condition of these properties. They are not currently suitable for residential occupation.”
Mr Moran said most of the properties are allocated to OPW staff, “where there is a requirement for officials to be present on the ground as part of their employment”.
There were occasions where the properties remained occupied by retired staff and widowed spouses on compassionate grounds.
“Decisions in relation to extended occupancy are made on a case-by-case basis. Duration of occupancy varies from a minimum of three years to life,” Mr Moran said in a written reply to parliamentary questions from Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy.
Ms Murphy said that some of these buildings “are in the most wonderful settings” and she asked: “Can they be brought into good condition? What would it take?”
She added that “the Phoenix Park is a protected area” and “they are required to be looked after”.
The Kildare North TD said she believed the properties could be restored and put to good use. “I’d rather see people going into them if they were tourists than going into Airbnb, for example”. They could also be considered for long-term rental, she said.
Castletown House and Demesne, a Palladian home built in Celbridge in 1722 for the then Speaker of the Irish House of Commons William Conolly, has four properties, all of them occupied.
Mr Moran said that the heritage organisation, the Irish Landmark Trust, holds leases on four properties, including Castletown House.
Ms Murphy, in whose Kildare North constituency the house is located, said Landmark Trust rents out the lodges at the entrance as holiday lettings including the Batty Langley lodge which the trust refurbished.
She said there was a value in bringing the properties “back to a standard where they’re habitable and then deciding how they should be used”.
In settings such as the Phoenix Park and Botanic Gardens in particular some investment in restoring their properties would be of considerable value, she said.