After years of dereliction, the HSE recently bought a row of buildings near the main entrance to James’s Hospital for €2.425 million, an HSE spokesperson said on 2 March.

But Dublin City Council had valued the properties at €1.7 million, according to its derelict sites register – which also lists the names of the previous owners.

“An independent valuation assessment supported the HSE’s offer which was subsequently ratified by the HSE’s approval processes,” an HSE spokesperson said.

“This acquisition will enable the development of facilities and support delivery of clinical services at St. James’s Hospital,” she said.

Falling into Dereliction

The buildings used to host a pub, a dry cleaners, a tropical fish shop. But over the years they changed hands and fell into dereliction.

In 2004, Thomas O’Connor, Donal Connolly and James Campion got planning permission to develop numbers 163, 164 and 165 into 22 apartments.

Their plan included preserving number 163, which was built around 1800 and is on the council’s register of protected structures.

But that never happened. And records suggest that the properties changed hands a few years later.

The Registry of Deeds shows a 2007 mortgage and names William Kennedy, Michael Molloy, John O’Donnell, Alban Carney, Tom Quinn and Tom Donohoe.

Last year, as the council moved to acquire the properties by compulsory purchase order, the owners at that time – a slightly different group – sold them to the HSE.

Changing Ownership

The buildings had been on the derelict sites register since June 2019. However, the version of that register available online does not include ownership information.

The council did not address a query last month about who had owned the properties. The information, though, was available in the real-world copy of the derelict sites register held at the Civic Offices at Wood Quay.

It’s a physical book with handwritten entries. The Derelict Sites Act 1990 does not include an obligation for the council to publish the register online.

By contrast, the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 does specify that the vacant sites register should be online, and it is – including ownership information.

The council is awaiting a review of the Derelict Sites Act 1990 by the Department of Housing, which could result in a recommendation to publish the register online, a council spokesperson said.

“DCC [Dublin City Council] is open to the consideration of providing Derelict Sites information online however will only do so once it is satisfied that there are no adverse legislative or GDPR implications,” the spokesperson said.

In any case, the derelict sites register entry for 162–165 James’s Street showed the owners as William Kennedy, Michael Molloy, John O’Donnell, Alban Carney, and Tom Quinn. The contact for each man is given as Sinéad Fitzpatrick at Kennedy Fitzgerald Solicitors in Galway.

Fitzpatrick has not responded to queries on when the owners bought the properties, what they intended to do with them, and whether they did anything to improve them.

The names of all five men and the solicitor are crossed out in the derelict sites register now. No current owner has been entered in their stead.

A Valuation

The derelict sites register includes a spot for “Market Value as determined by Dublin City Council/Date”.

On that line someone has written €2 million, and the date 26 June 2019 and then crossed that out.

Next to that is written €1.7 million, and the date 14 March 2023. That valuation is not crossed out.

What happened, a council spokesperson said, is that the owners appealed the €2 million valuation by the City Valuers Office, saying the property wasn’t worth that much.

“The matter was settled in 2023 and the revised valuation for 2019 entered on the Register,” the spokesperson said. The valuation “had regard to the fact that the property includes a large Protected Structure at No. 163 James’s Street in derelict condition”, they said.

This reduction in the council’s valuation would have reduced the amount of the derelict site levy the owners were charged each year. Sites on the derelict site register are subject to an annual levy of 7 percent of market value.

Fitzpatrick, the solicitor, did not respond to a query on whether the former owners were happy with the sales price to the HSE of €2.425 million.

UPDATE: This article was updated at 10.25am and 11.19 on 12 April 2023 to include comments from a council spokesperson in response to a query on why the derelict sites register isn’t online, and further background on the valuation information listed in the derelict sites register.

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1 Comment

  1. As always with these things; follow the money and look closely at the individuals who profit from these transactions to determine whether everything is in fact above board.

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