Religious orders, lands and housing

Sir, – The Religious Sisters of Charity have joined the gold rush by seeking to have about 10 acres of land on the Merrion Road in Dublin rezoned for residential development ("Move by Sisters of Charity to rezone Merrion Road land would boost its value to €50 million", News, February 22nd).

An industry source estimates that the land could sell for in excess of €50 million with zoning for homes.

The Sisters ran five industrial schools investigated by the Ryan Commission and have paid €2 million of the €5 million which they offered towards the State redress scheme for survivors.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin is bemused and accuses the city council of discrimination for proposing planning curbs that would prevent the use of redundant church lands for housing (News, February 19th).


This, it claims, runs counter to a request from the Minister for Housing that churches do their bit in addressing the housing crisis by making surplus church lands available for housing development.

I have a suspicion that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, in calling for such lands to be “made available”, did not have in mind the following.

The local authority rezones church lands to allow for housing development. The church applies for planning permission. The land is sold, whether for private or public housing, at the usual outrageous price. Our young people take out 30-year mortgages to pay for this windfall provided to a private institution by two public acts – the rezoning and the grant of planning permission.

That windfall would accrue not to any old private institution but to one the well-documented failings of which have been and continue to be a drain on the public purse.

Surely this is an opportunity to do the right thing for the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, the Religious Sisters of Charity and other religious institutions which have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past 20 years.

Anyone who is unclear as to who actually paid for these lands and buildings need only read Derek Scally’s superb book The Best Catholics in the World. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.