Photo by Nicky Daly

Large-scale building works for a new Garda Divisional Headquarters in Kevin Street started on 19 February 2015, according to details posted by the Office of Public Works.

And information released by the Department of Justice outlined a 24-month timeline for the project.

Two years later, the building, though far along, is nowhere near finished. The site is covered with white tarps, and still has a construction crane.

The project’s cost was set at €31 million, according to the Department of Justice website. And a spokesperson the Office of Public Works says that hasn’t changed.

“The construction of the new Garda Divisional HQ at Kevin St is on budget,” a spokesperson wrote by email, “and the final completion date is currently being reviewed by the Contractor and OPW with expected completion within Q.2/3 2017.”

But a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, Andrew Kelly, later offered a conflicting time frame for completion – the fourth quarter of 2017 – citing information from the OPW.

He said he couldn’t provide any additional details as to how a project expected to overrun by at least six months could remain on budget.

Independent Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn, who represents the Pembroke-South Dock electoral district in which the project is located, believes the build still has a long way to go.

“This building is going to take some time to finish,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re probably looking at the end of the year, maybe even early next year.”

Even though he sees the project as an important one for the area, Flynn says councillors are seldom given reports and updates on it by the OPW, because of security considerations.

“There is a lot riding on this station,” says Flynn. He says its completion will have a “very strong impact” on what he called a predominantly working-class area.

This project got underway in earnest some seven years after a planning application was lodged and approved for the 0.27 hectare site at the corner of Kevin Street and Bride Street.

The current Kevin Street Garda Station is one of the busiest stations in the country, so there’s been a growing need for more modern facilities for it, according to the Department of Justice.

Councillor Flynn described the current site as “pre-fab” and “ad-hoc”, while Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan spoke in 2015 of a need for 21st-century facilities.

The contract was awarded to construction giant J.J. Rhatigan, whose website lists the contract’s value as €27.4 million, and the planned duration of the project as February 2015 to July 2017.

The plans called for the demolition of a two-storey building, two one-storey sheds, and some boundary walls, next to the Kevin Street Garda Station, commonly referred to as “The Palace”.

The Palace or St Sepulchre’s Palace is part of a structure that has stood since at least the 14th century, and which is currently considered one of the few residential medieval structures still in use in Ireland, according to Dublin Civic Trust CEO Geraldine Walsh.

In 1326, it was in bad shape, according to contemporary records quoted in a historical report done as part of the planning application for the new Garda Divisional Headquarters slated for the site next door.

The 1326 account said it had “a stone hall, badly roofed with shingles, and weak, a chamber annexed to the same hall, a kitchen, a chapel, badly roofed …”. The historical report offers a possible explanation for its dilapidated state at that time.

It may have been the result of damage done to the city when Edward Bruce’s army attacked Dublin in 1316, and “citizens set fire to houses outside the city walls to prevent them falling into Scottish hands”, according to the report.

The palace was “extensively rebuilt” in 1521 though, and soon it was a sought-after address. When the archbishop at the time went out of town, the viceroy, Lord Grey, quickly moved into it. After the archbishop returned and complained to Henry VIII, Lord Grey lost his job.

In any case, the current Kevin Street Garda Station has a long and interesting history. When the gardaí relocate to the new one, the historical structure might be opened to the public, according to planning documents – perhaps as a museum.

Its “uniqueness as a surviving medieval residential structure […] and part of the Cathedral close and residence of the former Archbishop […] gives it a heritage and historical context for tourism,” writes the Dublin Civic Trust’s Walsh in an email.

The buildings demolished to make way for the new Garda Divisional Headquarters “were not part of the original Archbishops Palace but were incorporated or built onto the complex when the Dublin Metropolitan Police took over the Palace in 1806”, according to planning documents.

Councillor Flynn believes that the medieval site beside the new Garda Divisional Headquarters will strike an interesting contrast.

The new build would have 6,840 square metres of floor space, with a 5,400 square-metre double basement, which appears from the drawings designed accommodate underground parking. The planning application calls for 136 parking spaces, accessed from Bride Street.

The project will consist of a two/three-storey building along the west side of the site, near The Palace, and a five-storey building along Bride Street – the two connected by a glass atrium, according to planning documents.

The buildings will contain “offices, conference facilities, garage/workshops, stores, public reception, prisoner processing areas, landscaped roof terraces and associated ancillary spaces”, the documents say.

Nicky Daly is a freelance journalist living in Dublin. She is deeply interested in areas of cultural and social responsibility.

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