Senior citizens housing charity urges council not to repossess complex

Cabhru Housing Association Services subject of negative findings by Charities Regulator

Cabhru chairman Liam Meagher says the proposed redevelopment of McSweeney House will see the demolition of the existing premises and the construction of a new 35-unit complex

Cabhru chairman Liam Meagher says the proposed redevelopment of McSweeney House will see the demolition of the existing premises and the construction of a new 35-unit complex

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A senior citizens housing charity at the centre of a negative findings by the Charities Regulator in relation to the private use of its assets is appealing to Dublin City Council not to repossess its property.

An investigation by the regulator into Cabhru Housing Association Services last month found a friend of the former chief executive had been staying in an apartment at senior citizens’ complex, McSweeney House on Berkeley Street.

The regulator also determined an apartment in another complex, Fr Scully House on Gardiner Street, had been used inappropriately as the registered address of a company not connected to the housing charity. A member of the former chief executive’s family was a director of the company, the regulator found.

In February of last year the council decided to take over McSweeney House from Cabhru, previously known as the Catholic Housing Aid Society (Chas).

The decision followed controversy over the operations of the organisation and the resignation earlier in February of its chief executive, Miceal McGovern.

Cabhru had required the title of council-owned lands on Berkeley Street for the long-planned redevelopment of McSweeney House. The council last year said it would not go ahead with the planned transfer of lands to Cabhru and would instead ask that it surrender its 99-year lease on the Berkeley Street site to the council.

However, Cabhru chairman Liam Meagher is urging the council to allow the charity to go ahead with its redevelopment plans.

In a letter to councillors on Friday, Mr Meagher said the board accepted the findings of the regulator and “regrets that there were weaknesses in governance”. Over the past year it had taken steps “to address these governance shortcomings”, he said.

“The board is committed to the highest standards of probity and transparency and it looks forward to working closely with the Charities Regulator to ensure that all matters raised in the report are resolved to the satisfaction of the regulator.”

The board “acknowledges the previous decision of Dublin City Council to take back ownership and responsibility for McSweeney House in Berkeley Street, the 21 units of which currently lie vacant”. But he said: “Now that the Charities Regulator has published its report, the board would request the elected councillors of Dublin City Council to reconsider that decision.”

Track record

He highlighted the organisation’s track record in providing housing for older people, particularly the demolition and redevelopment of 99 apartments at Fr Scully House in 2014.

“The proposed redevelopment of McSweeney House will see the demolition of the existing premises and the construction of a new 35-unit complex. Planning permission is in place and the project was at advanced stage with tender documents ready to be issued prior to the Charities Regulator investigation and the council’s decision to take back the premises,” he said.

Mr Meagher requested a meeting with councillors and officials to “outline plans for a fast-track approach to the McSweeney House redevelopment and to answer any questions you may have about Cabhru’s future plans”.

Independent councillor Mannix Flynn, who had previously raised concerns about the management of the charity, said he was open to the proposals but wanted to see councillors appointed to the board.

“I don’t want to see this site lying idle and if they have the wherewithal to get this project finished, without undue delay, and if they agree to the appointment of a councillor or two councillors to the board, that may be the best way forward.”