St John of God Trust wants Traveller housing plan scrapped

Council has proposed six Traveller homes within the 12 hectare hospital location

Traveller accommodation: St John of God Hospital in Stillorgan, Dublin, is a ‘site that has been earmarked for at least a couple of decades’.

The St John of God Trust wants Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to scrap plans for Traveller accommodation in the grounds of its hospital in South Dublin.

The trust said the proposed six homes could restrict the development of the hospital or the future sale of the lands for potential residential development.

The mental health facility in Stillorgan sits on a 11.8 hectare site, larger than the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum where almost 1,300 homes are proposed on 11.3 hectares.

The trust’s lands are among just eight sites identified by the council as suitable for new Traveller housing.

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However, in a submission on the county development plan the trust said locating the proposed six homes within the hospital grounds could “conflict” with the current provision of hospital services and its future plans.

The trust said it has plans for a new “state-of-the-art” psychiatric facility, a new headquarters building and a “Heritage and Hospitality Centre, which will be a museum for the Order to celebrate its presence in Ireland”.

Once it had provided for these facilities there may be “residual land” and its sale, potentially for residential development, could “assist in facilitating these core requirements”.

The council identified the St John of God lands as a Traveller accommodation site in 2000. However, the trust said it has not been approached by the council regarding the acquisition of the land, and had been given no information on how the six homes would be serviced or managed.

Public service role

The order was “fulfilling a mission to a highly vulnerable section of society” through its activities, including providing mental health services for Travellers and social housing for people with special needs at other locations across the State.

“The obligation to meet a further public service role on the Order’s lands may constrain options for the hospital to expand its facilities in the immediate and longer term,” it told the council.

Geraldine Dunne, director of the Southside Traveller Action Group, said very few sites in the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown area had been designated for new Traveller accommodation. A site which had been chosen at Mount Anville Road in Mount Merrion had already been removed from the Traveller accommodation programme by the council, she said.

“The St John of God’s site has been earmarked for at least a couple of decades and it is absolutely needed. There have been very few new builds for Travellers, particularly in the last decade.”

The council said it was not in a position to comment on the matter.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times