Dublin City Council plans to repossess Iveagh Markets
Local authority to act to take back Edwardian building from hotelier Martin Keane
A view of the Iveagh Markets building, in Francis Street, Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Dublin City Council plans to repossess the Iveagh Markets from Temple Bar hotelier Martin Keane, despite this meaning it would face a €13 million bill just to halt the dereliction of the historic building.
Two days before Christmas Mr Keane lodged a new application to redevelop the Edwardian building on Francis Street in the Liberties which has been in his possession for more than 20 years.
Mr Keane wants to convert the derelict building into a European-style food hall, restaurants, a distillery, a brewery and crafts workshops. However, it is likely the council will declare the application invalid, with the council’s head of planning Richard Shakespeare saying Mr Keane had made erroneous claims to the ownership of the property.
In a report presented to city councillors on Monday, Mr Shakespeare said the council has now advised Mr Keane it is “terminating all communication with him and that it is taking the necessary steps to repossess the property from him”. The council “will defend this action in the courts if necessary”, he said.
The market was built early in the last century by the Guinness family, to house street traders who had been displaced by the construction of the nearby Iveagh Trust housing development on Patrick Street, and were handed over in trust to Dublin Corporation.
By the 1980s the building had become very rundown and it eventually closed in the 1990s. In 1996, the council announced it was seeking a private developer to regenerate the market. The following year Mr Keane secured the tender, with an agreement that the title of the market would transfer to him once the redevelopment was completed.
However, the development became mired in an ownership row between the corporation and the Guinness-family-controlled Iveagh Trust. The dispute was not resolved until 2004. Mr Keane applied for planning permission, which was granted by An Bord Pleanála in 2007, but before he could act on it, the recession hit.
In 2012, he secured a five-year extension of planning permission, which expired in 2017. That year the council voted to take back control of the market from Mr Keane. The council subsequently commissioned a report on the condition of the building from conservation architects Howley Hayes, which found that “essential structural repairs” would alone cost €13 million.
Mr Shakespeare last year told councillors the council did not have the money and the “most efficient way” forward for the market would be for Mr Keane to redevelop it.
However, in his report to councillors on Monday, he said the council was not satisfied Mr Keane had “secured the appropriate funding” for the project and his latest application had been lodged “without the council’s consent as landowner”. Mr Keane “claims to hold the freehold interest in the property which is untrue in relation to the Iveagh Markets element of the application”, he said.
Meanwhile, councillors said they oppose chief executive Owen Keegan’s proposal to sell €100 million worth of council-owned sites, instead of using the land for the construction of social housing.
Mr Keegan said he needs the money to fund culture, sport and recreation projects in the city, but councillors said the land should be used for public housing.
Social Democrats councillor Gary Gannon said selling land to fund projects was “not a sustainable model”. Sinn Fein’s Daithi Doolan said the council should not “sell off the family silver”.
Green councillor Neasa Hourigan said the council should introduce a tourist tax instead of selling land. Labour’s Alison Gilliland said she was conscious Mr Keegan was “operating within a couldn’t care less attitude of central Government”.
Mr Keegan said councillors would be asked to approve sales on a site by site basis and he would work with them in relation to specific concerns, but he said “we’re not selling sites for sake of selling sites. If we don’t raise the revenue the projects won’t go ahead.”