A prime, publicly owned site in south Co Dublin that had been earmarked for Traveller housing, and was then expected to be developed for other social housing, could be sold to the Department of Education for use by a school.
A number of local councillors and TDs say they are "concerned" and "disappointed" at a proposal by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) to sell all or part of the site at Mount Anville Road in Goatstown to the department at a time when public and affordable housing was urgently needed.
The Irish Times understands the department is under significant pressure to identify permanent accommodation for Gaelscoil Laighean, which has been open since 2019 and is currently operating from a former restaurant at Kill Lane, Deansgrange.
The 0.9-hectare (2.3-acre) Mount Anville Road site, a former council works depot, had been designated for Traveller housing from 2009 until 2018, after which councillors voted not to include it in the Traveller Accommodation Programme and to include it in a portfolio of sites for sale.
Traveller accommodation had been proposed there since 1985. However, the site had lain idle since then in the face of widespread objection from local residents to the plan, citing a potential impact on property prices.
In 2014 then councillor Josepha Madigan – now Fine Gael Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion – said using the site for Traveller accommodation would be a "dreadful waste . . . of taxpayers' money". In 2018 it was valued at €15 million.
It was neither sold nor developed subsequently, however, and in a statement on Friday a spokeswoman for the council confirmed the local authority was “currently in discussions with the Department of Education . . . on the basis of providing a school on the site.
“As the lands in question are in the ownership of DLRCC, a land transfer . . . to the Department of Education would be required which would be subject to agreement on property valuation, contract terms and the consent of the elected members of the council.”
‘Insult to injury’
Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said that while new school accommodation was always welcome, the sale of public land on which housing had been expected, “at the time of a housing crisis”, added “insult to injury after the highly prejudiced campaign against Traveller accommodation”.
Local Independent councillor Hugh Lewis said: "Any potential sale of this land must absolutely not come at the expense of providing public affordable and social housing.
“There is a finite amount of publicly owned land that is zoned for housing that has the infrastructure ready to develop. Mount Anville is one such site. This is why it is such an important site and so valuable in its potential to alleviate the housing crisis.”
Though the issue is not on the agenda for the final council meeting before the summer recess, which is scheduled for Monday, he said he would raise it “as a matter of urgency”, adding that if it was left until the autumn the proposal would be “a fait accompli”.
Senator Barry Ward of Fine Gael, a former councillor for the area, said no decision had been made on whether the site would be sold in full, partially or at all to the department. It was possible a school would be built on a portion and housing on the remainder, he added. “But new, permanent accommodation for Gaelscoil Laighean is urgently needed.”