Concerns are mounting that Catholic church authorities are preparing to sell off the only parish hall in Drumcondra, Dublin, which has been in community use for more than 60 years.
Access for community groups to the Corpus Christi hall on Home Farm Road was stopped last year under Covid-19 restrictions.
However, aside from a Montessori school which will have to leave the premises next week, groups were not permitted to return when the curbs were lifted.
The Montessori Children’s Academy, which has been operating from the hall for 28 years, lost a court action in September against the Dublin Archdiocese, which sought the school’s removal from the premises.
A statement issued by the archdiocese on behalf of Corpus Christi parish said the hall was being closed due to fire safety concerns.
“The property was reviewed on behalf of the parish by two separate fire safety experts who found that the property presented a fire safety risk and was unsuitable for childcare,” it said.
The school and other local organisations held a protest on Thursday night outside the Archbishop’s Palace on the Drumcondra Road, appealing to be permitted back into the hall.
They have offered to pay for fire safety works but say they have been “stonewalled” by the church on their offer.
“This hall was used by young and old, from breastfeeding support to positive ageing clubs to Irish dancing, yoga and ballet,” local resident and protest organiser Angela Boyle-Shafer said. “This is the only parish hall in Drumcondra, all these services have nowhere else to go.”
Labour Senator Marie Sherlock said concerns were growing that the church was preparing to sell the property and the community deserved clarity.
“At the moment all the signs point to this land being prepared for sale. Is the local community going to have to fundraise to buy it from the church? Are they going to be able to compete with developers?”
When asked if it intended to sell the hall, or undertake the fire safety work and permit the groups to return to the hall, the archdiocese’s statement on behalf of the parish said it was “unable to comment any further on this matter”.