A flaming disgrace


The sight of one of Cork’s most iconic buildings ablaze on Tuesday evening had half the city out watching in silence on the Lee Fields.

Seeing historic buildings on fire in the city is unfortunately nothing new. Last year we had hours of outraged calls when Vernon Mount was set on fire (most likely by teenagers drinking in the building). This year, same thing.

While very few people could have positive associations with St Kevin’s Psychiatric Hospital, there’s no doubting the beauty of the building, or indeed the potential value of the site it’s on.

For yesterday’s show we contacted the HSE and City Council in relation to the fate of the building, which has been lying idle since 2002 at an enormous cost.

Interestingly, we learned that the City Council put the building on the Derelict Sites Register in February of this year.

It seems to have been around the same time that the HSE began the process of divesting itself of the building.  Here’s what they told us.

“As the HSE doesn’t require the continued use of the site as a healthcare campus, the site has been deemed surplus to requirements. As a result, the site was recently offered to other Government Departments under the Protocol for the Intra-State Transfer of State Property Assets and the Protocol for the Intra-State Sharing of State Property Assets, as advised by Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Pending confirmation from other Government Departments, the HSE have recently engaged with an Estate agent to discuss the potential of bringing the campus to the open market.”

The estate agent is currently assessing the market value.

As one of our callers pointed out, the building as it was could have been converted into sheltered homes for single or elderly people, freeing up larger council houses all over the city for the use of families. It seems a little strange that, with a housing crisis now well established for at least three years, the building has only “recently” been offered up to the greater good.

We heard earlier this week that the new housing minister is looking at finding a solution to the housing crisis. Funny that, because I thought Simon Coveney spend the past year trying to find one as well, coming up with a policy document that now seems to be dust. New minister, new policy, new lack of action.

It’ll be very interesting to see whether this building will be transferred to another State body and repurposed, or sold to fill HSE coffers while people remain desperately clinging onto the rental market by their fingertips…

You can listen back to the show here.

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