The Irish Times view on the Iveagh Markets

Precious Edwardian resource must be saved

To say the Edwardian Iveagh Markets in Dublin's Liberties are in a sorry state would be an understatement in the extreme. A condition survey commissioned by Dublin City Council found the old market halls in "an advanced state of dereliction" with parts of the buildings now unstable and dangerous. In part this is the result of many decades of neglect. By the 1980s the market was very rundown and was no longer fit for use by the time it was shut in the 1990s.

However, much of the decay identified in the report by Howley Hayes Architects, especially what it refers to as "damaging interventions" – particularly archaeological excavation work – has occurred during the stewardship of hotelier Martin Keane who has had possession of the building since 1997. Not all the blame for the delayed development can be laid at the feet of Keane. The project became mired in a row between the then Dublin Corporation and the Iveagh Trust, over the corporation's right to transfer ownership to Keane, and this was not resolved until 2004.

The council would most likely have to seek another private developer to take on the task, with all the delays and uncertainties inherent

Keane secured planning permission in 2007 but then the crash hit and the project stalled. A clause in the lease between the council and Keane had given him 36 months to develop the market but, given the economic circumstances, the council chose not to invoke it. In 2017 councillors voted to seek the return of the building. The council management instead commissioned the condition survey.

The council’s reluctance to chase Keane for possession of the buildings is unsurprising given that the cost of repairing their historic fabric and filling in the very large hole Keane has dug in the centre of markets is estimated at at least €13 million. That’s before the costs of any work to restore them as working markets.

The council would most likely have to seek another private developer to take on the task, with all the delays and uncertainties inherent. Keane says he is on the cusp of submitting fresh permission. From the point of view of achieving the essential refurbishment, this is probably the least worst option, provided it happens quickly.