After 13 Years of Waiting Will the Liberties Finally Get a Full-Size Sports Pitch?

Last week, Dublin City Council outlined plans to deliver a full-sized pitch suitable for all field sports, at St Teresa’s Gardens, by 2022.

For Tommy Daly of Sporting Liberties, a coalition of community groups pressing for sports facilities in the area, this means that a 13-year struggle to secure a full-size home pitch might be coming to an end.

“We absolutely welcome this proposal,” he says.

Under the deal, the council could swap two pockets of land it owns at the site with the developer Hines.

In exchange, Hines would build a full-size GAA pitch, which could also be used for rugby and soccer, complete with dressing rooms and new facilities for the local boxing club too.

A formal proposal is likely to come before the October full council meeting where all councillors will vote on whether to transfer the land and sanction the deal.

Most local area councillors are backing the plans. But some say that the council shouldn’t have to give away land that could be used for 124 homes in order to fund facilities.

What is the Plan?

When Daly was young there were GAA pitches on that same spot, he says, but they were closed for the proposed redevelopment of the area 13 years ago.

That redevelopment never happened. Since then sports clubs in the Liberties have had to travel to Drimnagh, Crumlin and even Walkinstown to play matches, he says.

“Every kid in every village in the country can walk to a local field and engage in sport,” says Daly.

Except in the Liberties, where there are 50,000 people living in eight parishes, with not one full-sized pitch.

If the community can secure the facilities it needs there will be an explosion in participation in sports by children and young people in the area, he says.

According to the report, presented to local area councillors on 16 September, there is no other funding proposal in place for the pitch.

In 2017 Dublin City Council committed to build the facilities at the old Boys’ Brigade pitch beside St Teresa’s Gardens. But the council doesn’t have the money to do it, says the report.

The developer Hines recently got planning permission for a large build-to-rent scheme on two adjoining sites known as the Bailey Gibson and Player Wills lands.

The plan is for Dublin City Council to give Hines just under four percent of the land it owns at St Teresa’s Gardens, that could provide space for 124 homes, says the report.

The two parties have agreed a land value of €9m says the council report.

That gives a site value of around €72,000 per site.

In return for the land Hines will build a full-size pitch, dressing rooms and a new boxing club and square up the rest of the €9m in cash or land, says the report.

“Hines are agreeable to delivering the proposed infrastructure at cost and will not derive any profit from same,” says the report.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council didn’t answer questions as to how much the facilities will cost to build.

“The plan is to deliver a full-size multi-code playing pitch,” says a spokesperson for Hines.

If councillors agree to the swap, “the target dates are to achieve planning for the pitch in June 2021 … and deliver the pitch complete by the end of 2022,” he says.

A Tough Decision

“There are schools in Dublin with more pitches than the whole community of the Liberties,” says Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon.

Pidgeon participated in the local area meeting on Wednesday 16 September, which took place through an online video platform. “I think most people spoke in favour of it,” he says, but “there is a bit of disquiet about the sale of the land.”

He thinks €9m is a good deal, perhaps that is more than they would get for the land on the open market, he says.

Pidgeon hopes the council will approve the deal when it comes before them, which he expects be in October, he says. “The lack of green space in the Liberties is just so acute and that community in particular have waited so long for it.”

Labour Councillor Darragh Moriarty, who has the support of his party colleagues for the plan, if a little reluctantly, thinks it should carry.

“We didn’t take the decision lightly, we are in the middle of a housing crisis and public land is limited,” he says. “We need all available land to address the housing shortage.”

On the other hand he represents a working-class area that has been completely deprived of sporting facilities, he says.

Moriarty wants to see a community hall for martial arts and indoor activities included in the plans too, he says.

But some councillors say they are constantly being railroaded into giving away public land that is suitable for housing.

“I’m 100 percent behind Sporting Liberties, I always have been,” says People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh.

But it is shameful that in order to deliver sports facilities the council has to give away land, that could be used for housing, she says.

The state should directly fund vital infrastructure for communities, she says and sports facilities are part of that.

The councillors are constantly being presented with reasons to sell off land, she says.

“We are perpetuating a trend and no one is standing up and saying no,” says MacVeigh.

Daly of Sporting Liberties says he really hopes that the council will back the plans because he just doesn’t see another realistic possibility of getting a pitch for the area.

“Hopefully it goes ahead, if we have to wait on the land development agency to do it, we could be waiting another 13 years,” he says.

If it goes ahead, the new pitch will be shared between hurling, Gaelic football, soccer and rugby clubs, he says. “It will be a very busy pitch,” he says.

He looks forward to the issues that will throw up, in terms of who gets to use it when, he says. “That would be a very nice problem to have,” says Daly.

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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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