Dáil debates

Thursday, 1 December 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Heritage Projects

5:44 pm

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I know the Minister of State and others in the House have an interest in the architecture of Dublin, the country as a whole and our history. The Iveagh Markets on Francis Street is a building of major importance. It is a huge site in the Liberties. It was built at the turn of the 20th century as an indoor market. I think the Minister of State was down there recently. He will understand the need for the State to step in at this stage, given the state of dereliction and disrepair of this beauty of, one could say, an industrial site. It is also a site that one can easily see and imagine the splendour of when walking around it. It is also functional. We have seen footage of St. George's Market in Belfast and the English Market in Cork and any town in Europe that has retained its markets. Sometimes they are smaller but one can see how functional they can be, especially in an era when we are trying to be sustainable.

The site is in the heart of the city in an area which has increased in density because of building work over the years. Many apartments have been built and there are more people living in the area. It would be great to see a food market again in the heart of Dublin. There were food markets in Newmarket until recently but because of developments, they were moved out. They still exist and try to thrive. It would be great to see that again.

There has been a huge change in culture in regard to repurposing and reusing clothes. One of the last parts of the Iveagh Markets, the part that I remember, was second-hand clothes. I was in the building a number of months before the market closed and it was in rag order, as we say in Dublin. It was not in a fit state. That is one of the reasons the market closed. There were still businesses trading and there are still people who lovingly remember the trade, the banter and the bartering that went on with those old-style market stalls that were in the Iveagh Markets and elsewhere around the country. We have an opportunity not necessarily to bring the market right back to previous times but it is a space that could be used as such spaces are used in other areas. We could use it as a market stall in the mornings and weekends and for other purposes too. It can be cleaned out easily. It is a vast complex. If it is left to the vagaries of winter again, more damage will be done.

When the Iveagh Markets closed Dublin City Council estimated it would cost €1 million or €2 million to refurbish the building. Now it is talking about €20 million. That is the damage caused by years of neglect and awaiting development that never happened. Mediation is supposedly going on between those who claim ownership. At some stage, someone has to call a halt to that. The longer that mediation goes on, the more dangerous the building becomes and the more likely it is that someone will have to step in and take action. For this reason, I call on the Minister of State who has an interest in heritage in the city to step in. This would be a major attraction to add to all of the other buildings in the vicinity on the tourist trail but also for the community. The Minister of State helped out before in regard to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Christ Church Cathedral is around the corner. Tailor’s Hall is An Taisce’s building and great work is planned for that. The Iveagh Markets are next door and could add to the tourist trail as well as the local community which recently lost two community halls in the vicinity.

5:54 pm

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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There is no doubt that the Iveagh Markets are important architecturally but also socially for the community around the Liberties. It is an impressive building in its wider context on the street but also as a heritage building. There has been a great deal of concern expressed about it of late and down the years.

I will outline a couple of points. My functions as Minister of State with regard to the protection of our architectural heritage are set out in the Planning and Development Acts, as are the responsibilities of local authorities and owners. Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, gives responsibility to planning authorities to identify and protect the architectural heritage by including particular structures on the record of protected structures, RPS, and overseeing development and safeguarding of the structures accordingly.

With regard to procedures for identifying architectural heritage, the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, NIAH, was established by the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1999. Its purpose is to identify, record and evaluate the post-1700 architectural heritage of Ireland as an aid to its protection. As Minister of State, I can make recommendations to planning authorities for buildings and structures to be included on the RPS. In general, I make these recommendations on foot of the surveys carried out by the NIAH. However the final decision as to the inclusion of a building or structure on the RPS remains a reserved function of the relevant planning authority's elected members.

The Iveagh Markets building was recorded by the NIAH in November 2013 and rated as being of regional importance. As such, it was recommended to the local authority for inclusion on its RPS. I am informed that Dublin City Council has included the Iveagh Markets on its RPS, reference No. 2936. Inclusion on the RPS obliges owners and occupiers to prevent endangerment of the building and requires the local authority, where it has formed the view that the building is or will become endangered, to serve notice on the owner or occupier to carry out remedial works. Where the owner or occupier fails to carry out the works specified by the planning authority, the Act gives the planning authority a range of discretionary powers to safeguard the structure in question, including powers to enter a property, carry out works required to prevent endangerment and recover the associated costs from the owner or occupier.

As the Deputy will be aware, there is currently a dispute over the title to the Iveagh Markets between three separate parties. The matter has been before the High Court since 2021 and I understand that mediation was due to resume on 28 November. In these circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the matter of ownership. Officials in my Department remain available to advise the Dublin City Council on any future efforts to restore the building.

I draw the Deputy's attention to the financial support provided by my Department for the protection of heritage buildings and historic structures through the historic structures fund, HSF, and the built heritage investment scheme, BHIS, which are administered by local authorities. I recently announced funding of €9 million for both of these schemes in 2023. In this instance, the scale of investment needed, as the Deputy said, is such that additional funding would be required to supplement these grants.

I fully understand and appreciate the value of our built heritage at a local level. I am eager to see the appropriate action taken in this case as soon as possible. In the past few days, I have asked officials in my Department to make contact with Dublin City Council on this matter. It is important in the short term to secure the building and prevent any further water ingress or damage to it. We are making efforts now to see if we can progress matters as a matter of urgency.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I thank the Minister of State. He is correct that there is supposedly mediation taking place. However, that has been ongoing for quite a long time. Ownership has been disputed since 2018 when the planning permission ran out. The problem is that one of the parties disputing ownership is in fact the local authority, the body that is supposed to protect the building under dispute. I brought the matter to this forum in the hope that Dublin City Council would listen and finally step in, secure the building and protect it from any further decay. It could then deal with the mediation in the meantime given that winter is coming.

The Iveagh Markets could be a fabulous resource for the city of Dublin and the country given the number of tourists who travel through the area but also for a community which has lost the Nicholas of Myra Hall, which is currently being used as a homeless centre, and another community hall, where there was a fire and will not reopen until 2025. The community is at a loss for space. The Iveagh Markets building is in such a perilous state that it could not be turned into a community area for many years. It must first be secured. Thankfully, the Guinness family stepped in and took control. It now pays for the security of the building. However, that is only security of the premises rather than security of the fabric of the building, which is in danger from snow, ice and water which can do tremendous damage to the iron pillars and the balconies that are rotting away. They need to be secured before they become totally useless for any rebuild in the future.

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Again, I agree with everything the Deputy said. As a culchie who moved up to Dublin in the last couple of years, I cannot but be impressed by the architectural heritage of the city, particularly the older parts of the city such as the Liberties. The Iveagh Markets are intrinsic to that and an important asset for the people of Dublin and the country as well. Although deemed to be of regional importance, I believe the market is of national significance. It is critically important that we work collectively and collaboratively to try to find a solution to resolve this.

As I said, there are grant schemes in our Department. The local authority has powers under the Planning and Development Act to safeguard the building. There has been engagement from the Earl of Iveagh and others. That is really positive. The Deputy can rest assured that the Department will do all it can to try to move the process along in a positive way, not to look back but to look forward, and see if there is a mechanism by which we can get into a space where we can look at restoring or beginning the process of carrying out building condition surveys and getting a restoration project off the ground for the Iveagh Markets. The building is far too important for Dublin and the country to lose it. We will do all we can to try to help with this process.