On the Iveagh Markets

On Monday, Dublin city councillors representing the Liberties sought answers about the future of the Iveagh Markets, following rumours it was back in the hands of publican Martin Keane – first leased the markets in 1997 but failed to restore it and bring it back into use.

But they got little information in response from council managers, who cited ongoing legal proceedings, and a mediation process.

Keane had grand plans for it. But hadn’t followed through, citing the financial crisis. In 2017 Dublin city councillors, sick of the lack of movement, voted to press ahead with getting the Iveagh Markets back from Keane, and under Dublin City Council’s control.

In December 2020, a representative of Lord Iveagh, a member of the Guinness family, who originally owned the markets, took possession of it.

The case ended up in court and the judge asked Keane, Dublin City Council and representatives of Lord Iveagh to go into mediation, according to the Irish Times.

Lately, it was rumoured that Keane had got possession of the building back.

At the council’s January monthly meeting on Monday, four local councillors tabled an emergency motion asking council managers for a full report on the issue, including all details of what was agreed.

People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh asked the council management whether a “shady backroom deal” had taken place.

“If the rumours are true, ownership of the historic Iveagh Markets has been granted to a private developer but not just any private developer,” she said. “This is the very person that has sat on the Iveagh Markets for the last 20 years.”

Locals feel betrayed, she said.

MacVeigh’s motion was supported by Labour Party Councillor Darragh Moriarty, Sinn Féin Councillor Máire Devine and Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon.

In response, Dublin City Council Assistant Chief Executive Richard Shakespeare read from a prepared statement.

“The three parties, Lord Iveagh, Dublin City Council and Martin Keane and related companies, are involved in a confidential mediation process, which arises from a number of legal proceedings which are currently before the High Court,” he said. “It is the intention of the parties that this matter be resolved as soon as possible.”

“On a strictly without prejudice basis an application to take out an archaeological licence … has been made to facilitate proposed enabling works at the Iveagh Markets,” Shakespeare said.

The licence is to allow for scaffolding to be erected and to facilitate an architectural survey of the roof and walls. “This will facilitate the repair and conservation of the market building,” he said.

The Lord Mayor, Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland, asked him to confirm that there is no agreement in place.

No final agreement has been reached, said Shakespeare. “It is important to stress that mediation is ongoing.”

Gilliland asked who the people working on the Iveagh Markets at the moment are working for.

“At this point in time it’s part of the mediation process so that would be the three parties concerned,” said Shakespeare.

Councillors expressed disappointment about the situation.

“I don’t have much trust in Martin Keane to deliver on this,” said Pidgeon, of the Green Party.

“What is happening at the minute is disappointing and it’s terrifying,” said Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam.

The council must protect its other historic market, the Victorian fruit and veg market near Smithfield from a similar fate, he said. Several others reiterated that point.

MacVeigh said there should be a public consultation process on the future development of the Iveagh Markets. “This is a public building, it’s owned by the people of Dublin city and they should have a say in its future.”

The councillors at the meeting agreed this motion.

A Buffer Against Homelessness

Councillors agreed to write to the Minister for Housing, Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien, to ask him to bring back the Tenant-in-Situ Scheme, which enabled the council to buy homes to prevent their tenants from becoming homeless.

Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan said the scheme applied to tenants who were on the council’s housing list already. “The scheme allowed the family to remain as council tenants and avoid the trauma of homelessness,” he said.

Dublin City Council prevented 147 families from becoming homeless after their landlord decided to sell their rented homes, said Doolan at the meeting.

The council started the scheme in 2018 as a homeless prevention tool, he said in a press release.

Social Democrats Councillor Catherine Stocker said at the meeting, “It is a vital scheme … I was contacted literally today by someone who could have benefitted from it.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha queried why the council can lease homes but not purchase them. “There is no bar on vulture funds and all the rest of them buying up housing in this city,” he said.

Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne said he is in contact with a family facing homelessness because their landlord is selling their rented home where they have lived for 17 years.

The landlord was willing to sell to the council, he said. “This family is an integral part of a community.”

The scheme represented good value for money, Dunne said and was better value to the council than the council’s practice leasing social housing from private companies.

The Tenant in Situ Scheme has been stopped because councils are moving away from purchasing homes, said council Assistant Chief Executive Cóilín O’Reilly.

The council requested that the Department of Housing allow them to extend the scheme, but that was refused, he said.

The scheme was stopped to prevent the council from competing with private purchasers trying to buy homes, said O’Reilly.

Dunne requested that the Lord Mayor write to the Housing Minister to request the restoration of the scheme, and that was agreed.

Laoise Neylon is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at lneylon@dublininquirer.com.

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