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The Player Wills Factory

The old Player Wills cigarette factory on the South Circular Road was added to the record of protected structures on Monday night, after a vote by Dublin city councillors at their monthly meeting.

The yellow-brick factory building dates back roughly 100 years. Construction began in the 1920s with extensions in the 1930s and 1940s, says a council report.

Architects Beckett & Harrington designed the original building and the additions, influenced by modernism and art deco.

George Beckett, the architect, wrote about factory design in the Irish Times in 1939, says the report.

“He emphasised the need for natural light, appropriate materials and recreation facilities so as to cheer the worker,” it says.

The building’s addition to the record of protection structures – which means that the owner by law has to maintain the building and would need permission to make changes that would be allowed in other buildings – has been years in the offing.

In 2017, the Minister for Culture recommended that the building be included and deemed it of regional significance or higher, says the council report.

In November 2018, then Labour Councillor Rebecca Moynihan, now a senator, brought a motion to the council calling for the inclusion of the Player Wills building on the record of protected structures.

The Player Wills building is part of a large housing development planned by Hines, which had said that it intends to restore the building.

In February, Moynihan had saidshe was concerned that the developer would make changes to the interior and exterior.

The building’s interior needed to be protected, including its “gorgeous internal staircases”, she said.

On Monday, the council took action to protect the building.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the developer, Hines, said that: “Hines is assessing the implications arising from ongoing legal developments.”

Local councillors welcomed the addition of the building and thanked Moynihan and her colleague, Labour Councillor Darragh Moriarty, for pursuing it.

Moriarty said he hoped “that the architecture and history of this building will be protected into the future”.

The building is “iconic”, said Sinn Féin Councillor Máire Devine. “It’s got a massive cultural, artistic and industrial heritage.”

“This is a real victory for a community that feels left behind in relation to all the development that is happening in the area,” said People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh.

Using CCTV for Dumping

Also at Monday’s meeting, councillors backed a motion by Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey to bring back the use of CCTV to tackle illegal dumping.

The motion said that the council supports a proposal before the Oireachtas to allow councils to use CCTV to fight illegal dumping.

Then it continues on: “And reaffirms its wish to develop further the waste collection and management of same within the democratic Local Government structures as a reserved functions of Councillors.”

Councillors unanimously supported the CCTV opener. But several Fine Gael councillors didn’t agree with the call for waste collection to be taken back into council management.

Lacey said the national law is needed to make sure councils can use cameras, as it had been until the data protection commissioner advised that it mightn’t be in compliance with data protection rules.

There is a “dumping crisis” in the city centre, said independent Councillor Cieran Perry.

“It is unbelievable that we can’t use CCTV to target those who are abusing our communities.”

“There is obviously no difficulty in supporting the issue of CCTV,” said Fine Gael Councillor Paddy McCartan.

However the Fine Gael group doesn’t support taking waste collection back into council management, he said. “It is bringing in a separate issue that has been dealt with.”

No councillor spoke against employing CCTV in this way. Lacey’s motion was agreed, with 49 in favour and four against.

Buying and Selling to Buy It Again

They delayed it in earlier meetings, but this time around, councillors agreed to sell a derelict property at the corner of Abbey Street and Marlborough Street, formerly the Plough pub, for €550,000.

The council bought the property in 2017 under its Active Land Management Initiative, for €800,000

Under the initiative, the council buys up derelict properties for redevelopment, and enforces the derelict sites and vacant sites legislation.

Successful bidders Robert McCarthy and Michael McCarthy plan to redevelop the siteto provide two shops and six apartments.

The council plans to buy back the six homes at market rate once they are ready.

Councillors expressed frustration at the options presented to them. Most local area councillors supported the plan, seemingly reluctantly.

Green Party Councillor Janet Horner said that councillors had to choose between leaving the building derelict and in council ownership, or selling it to a private developer to restore it much more quickly.

“I think that speaks to a very broken system and I have deep concerns about that,” she said.

Selling the property was the “best worst-case scenario”, said independent Councillor Cieran Perry. At least this way the site will be developed, he said.

Councillors from Sinn Féin, People Before Profit and the Social Democrats opposed the sale.

“Here we are, Dublin City Council, buying property in the centre of the capital at full market value, then selling it at a discount to a developer to buy back units of housing built on public land,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan.

This is not a cost effective way of developing housing, he said. “This is public money we are talking about. This is not Monopoly.”

Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam said the issue had been discussed at length in the council’s Central Area Committee, which had heard from the city valuer and several managers.

“I don’t think anybody was happy,” said council assistant chief executive Richard Shakespeare. “It’s the lesser of two evils.”

If the proposal was rejected the council would have to procure a design team and apply for funding and do public procurement for a builder and all of that would lead to delays.

Because of construction inflation, they wouldn’t end up any better off, he said. “It would probably end up costing us quite a significant amount more,” he said.

Dublin City Council planning and property manager Paul Clegg said the council would be worse off trying to develop the site itself.

There are retail units included in the plans and the council would have to spend around €950,000 to build those, he said.

Taken together with the money the council already spent buying the site, that would mean the council spending €1.5 million to €2 million – not including the construction of the social homes, he said.

Labour Councillor Kevin Donoghue asked twice whether the council would definitely be able to buy back the six homes once they are completed.

Shakespeare said he believed they would get funding from the Department of Housing for that, but it would depend on the final cost of the homes.

In the end, the sale was agreed, with 36 in favour and 20 against.

[CORRECTION: This article was updated at 11.25am on 8 July 2021 to correct the vote count in the vote on supporting the use of CCTV.]

Laoise Neylon

Laoise Neylon is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at

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