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Tony Mooney walks the seafront in Clontarf every day, he says. Lately, he noticed that the circular shelter known as the bandstand is decaying.

Being beside the sea, it needs regular maintenance to stop corrosion, he says. Just as the owners of sea-facing houses paint them regularly, says Mooney.

“There will be more structural damage as time goes on,” he says. “It’s just getting worse and worse all the time.”

The shelter is currently surrounded by metal railings to keep people out of it.

He would like to see the shelter used again, he says. He would use it, given there’s a coffee dock just over the road, says Mooney.

Dublin City Council officials do plan to fix the bandstand shelter, they say.

First though, the council needs to add it to the Record of Protected Structures, so the council can apply for funding to fix it up.

The council intends to list all eight shelters on the Clontarf seafront and Bull Island as protected structures, a plan in the works since October 2021 when Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney tabled a motion proposing it.

But short staffing in the conservation department has hampered the process. As have issues around proving who owns the bandstand shelter.

“There is a lack of clarity in relation to ownership,” said Páraic Fallon, a senior planner with Dublin City Council, at a meeting of councillors for the North Central Area on 20 February.

Dublin City Council didn’t respond in time for publication to queries sent Monday about the lost title deeds.

The Bandstand

The circular shelter is known as the bandstand, but it isn’t clear what it was originally used for, said Fergal McNamara, an architect with 7L Architects, at the area committee meeting last week.

“It’s a nice example of 20th-century architecture for leisure and it’s one of that whole suite of buildings and sea shelters along the seafront and the Bull Wall,” he says.

The shelters were built in the 1950s, he said.

Lead was mined in the estuary area starting in the medieval period, he says, and the bandstand is built on top of a mine shaft, which probably dates to the 17th century or earlier, said McNamara.

The base of the shelter is made of stone and reinforced with concrete. Some stones are missing but they can be easily replaced, he said.

Buildings that are on the seafront will inevitably become eroded, he says, but there isn’t much sign of major structural stress on the base of the shelter.

The ceiling of the bandstand shelter. Photo by Laoise Neylon.

The roof is more concerning, said McNamara. “The building isn’t unstable but it is corroding.”

The ceiling has cracks that have been “exploited by the sea air to cause the steel reinforcement bars to rust”, he said.

When steel rusts it expands and can stretch to 20 times its usual size, he says. The roof of the bandstand would become unstable if not repaired, he says.

The Linear Shelter

Down the prom away eastwards from the city centre, the linear shelter is in better condition, says McNamara. “It’s quite a complex structure in the way it’s put together.”

He reckons that the location was selected deliberately, he says. “It is set on one of the nicest spots where the river estuary joins the bay.”

Originally, this shelter had lots of seating, says McNamara. It had benches inside and out for as many as 100 people, he says.

He thinks the shelter would have been painted a light yellow-orange colour to go with the pebbledash, he says.

But the wooden benches were removed at some stage. What is left now is a skeleton of the original shelter, says McNamara.

The shelter in Salthill in Galway is a very similar design, although that one has been altered quite a bit over the years, he says.

If it were renovated, the linear shelter in Clontarf could be adapted to become a cafe or kiosk, he says, so it could fund its own maintenance.

“It could be put to more interesting uses,” says Charles Duggan, heritage officer with Dublin City Council at the meeting.

“The improvement of its appearance is enough but … it could be put to use as a small tea room which could be very nice to see,” he said.

Moving to Protect

At the meeting last week, Fallon, the council’s senior planner, said the conservation department agreed that the shelters are “of special interest”.

They should be added to the Record of Protected Structures as Cooney, the Green Party councillor, suggested in her 2021 motion, he said. “We are keen to go forward on that.”

The council has not added the shelters to the Record of Protected Structures so far because the conservation department is running with half the staff it should have, he said.

Fallon said he hopes new staff will be recruited by the end of April. The council could then resume adding buildings to the Record this summer, he said.

“These will be in the early part of the priorities of that programme,” says Fallon.

There is another outstanding issue, he said. The council can’t find the title deed for the bandstand, said Fallon.

The council’s legal department is searching for the deed and has contacted the Department of the Marine and other agencies, he says. “It’s key to inform the public and to notify the owners of all structures proposed.”

Cooney, the Green Party councillor, said she was concerned that the shelters are corroding more each day. “They are deteriorating.”

The shelters were designed and built by Dublin City Council so there shouldn’t be an issue with ownership, she says.

Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha said he too was surprised to hear about the ownership issues. “We would all like to see these features restored.”

Said Fallon: “We are required to bottom out that issue.”

If they can’t ascertain who owns the bandstand, they can put up a notice on it instead, he says, and crack on with the listing after that.

“As soon as we have more people on the ground we will proceed with this one,” he says.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney asked how much the work would cost.

Renovating the bandstand might cost between €40,000 and €100,000, said Fallon. Once the shelters are listed, the council can apply for funding from the central government for the work, he said.

Laoise Neylon

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

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