Protest at Dublin’s Hell Fire Club over €19m visitor centre
Council proposal includes restaurant and shop on site close to 18th-century landmark
Supporters of the Save the Hellfire group protest at the site in Co Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
About 500 people turned out to show their support for the Save the Hellfire campaign at a short protest on Sunday afternoon.
The protesters met at the Hell Fire car park before walking to the top of Montpelier Hill.
Group member Elizabeth Davidson told The Irish Times that the committee were delighted with the turnout.
“We had about 500 people turn out for the demonstration and we are very pleased with the turnout. A lot of people incorporated the event into their usual Sunday walking route.
“I think people were very interested in what our speakers had to say, in particular the discussion surrounding the run-off the hill, which can affect water supply.
“Unfortunately, Francis Black was unable to make it [as planned], but the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan spoke about the vision for a national park in the Dublin Mountains which would incorporate land from Powerscourt the whole way over.”
The group expect to hold further discussions with South Dublin County Council on the issue in the coming weeks.
The proposed development would be part of the Dublin Mountains Project.
It would include a visitors’ centre high up on Montpelier Hill, close to the Hell Fire Club.
The centre would encompass an 80-seater restaurant, a ramblers’ lounge, a retail unit, a seminar room and a display area.
The current Hell Fire car park would be expanded, through the felling of many trees.
A smaller project is also planned for Massy’s Wood across the road.
It is hoped that the Dublin Mountains Project will attract 300,000 visitors a year to this location.
However, locals and frequent visitors to the area object to the plans, claiming that the natural habitat would be turned into a “concrete jungle”.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Anna Collins, who is a member of the Save the Hellfire group, explained why local residents and the wider community have organised the rally.
“As you can imagine, this [project] would put great pressure on a small area with unique heritage merit, potentially causing environmental damage and bringing a lot of traffic congestion into a location where the current road infrastructure is below standard.
“There would also be an impact on the native wildlife which inhabits the wooded areas. Both the greater spotted woodpecker and the red squirrel have been seen in Hell Fire or Massy’s Wood in most recent times and are a rarity due to the population numbers in Ireland at present,” said Ms Collins.
“We want to raise awareness and indeed stress . . . the need for sensitive care for the built heritage and the environmental diversity in the area.
“They don’t have any forest areas where they come from so they come here, and the feedback which we have gotten from families is that they are outraged to think that an area where they can let their children run free is an area that is going to be concreted over and turned into a suburban facility.
“There are big concerns about issues like flooding and water, and also the increased level of traffic the project would bring.”