The old library building in Inchicore – which Dublin City Council has left empty since late 2019 – is suffering from major issues with mould and dampness, fire safety, loose brickwork and cracked walls.
There are 39 critical flaws that the council should fix immediately, according to a recent engineer’s report which was commissioned by Dublin City Council.
“We would recommend having the cracking further investigated to ensure the structural integrity is not impacted,” says the report by The Building Consultancy.
Last winter, a pipe burst and collapsed part of the ceiling inside the art-deco building, which the council had only recently listed as a protected structure.
“It reminds me of the Iveagh Markets,” says Sinn Féin Councillor Máire Devine. “It’s neglect.”
Dublin City Council has a responsibility to maintain the beautiful old building, she says.
Michael O’Flanagan, secretary of a local heritage group and a member of the Inchicore Library Advisory Committee, also wants the council to move quickly to come up with an urgent plan to get the building used again.
Devine says the advisory group, which she also sits on, is seeking an urgent meeting with the council’s head of planning, Richard Shakespeare.
O’Flanagan says he sought and received assurances from Shakespeare and the local area manager that the building would be checked on regularly after the library service handed it over to the council’s property management section. But that didn’t happen, he says.
When the library service had control of the building, staff checked it regularly and turned on the heating, says O’Flanagan.
What is in the report?
The critical problems listed in the engineer’s report are many.
“Significant dampness was noted to the walls and ceilings throughout,” says the report. The building needs to be damp-proofed immediately, and the heating should be regularly switched on.
The building needs a total overhaul when it comes to fire safety too, says the report, which found multiple breaches.
An asbestos survey was carried out and found that asbestos was present but that no particles were airborne. It recommended that “a competent asbestos removing company is appointed and all asbestos products removed safely”.
Many windows are significantly corroded and the council should hire a specialist windows conservation company to repair them, says the report.
Beyond the 39 critical issues were 18 more that were deemed less urgent but still important. The critical repairs marked for immediate action should be carried out within a year, it says.
The council has a responsibility to maintain these types of beautiful old buildings, and especially those that are on the record of protected structures, says Devine. “It really is so disheartening.”
The full refurbishment will be expensive and won’t happen immediately, she says, so an interim plan to protect the building is needed.
She wants an urgent meeting between the Inchicore Library Advisory Committee and the council’s head of planning, Richard Shakespeare, to work out that strategy, she says. “I still want to know how can we patch it up and try to keep it alive.”
How did it get here?
In January 2020, councillors voted through plans to refurbish the Inchicore library building, mostly to improve accessibility.
Works were also to include maintenance and landscaping, new public spaces inside and out, and adding toilets.
The council found a contractor to do the work on the old library. But then Covid-19 delayed that.
In March last year, a council spokesperson said that Covid-related delays to the project, and construction inflation, meant it was reconsidering the building’s future use.
Devine, the Sinn Féin councillor, put in questions to council managers in February 2022 calling for a public consultation to get a conversation going about what it should reopen as.
“The matter will be discussed with the Area Councillors at the appropriate time,” said a council spokesperson.
A petition launched last summer, calling on the council to fix up the library before autumn, currently has 544 signatures.
“The building has been empty for 2 years and is unheated,” says the petition. “Refurbishment works are urgently needed before the Autumn wet weather sets in.”
Then in December 2022 a burst pipe, causing major damage to the building.
Devine says that wouldn’t have happened if someone had been carrying out regular checks.
O’Flanagan says the building served community and artistic uses locally, as well as being the local library. It hosted art exhibitions, poetry readings and other cultural activities, he says.
The parish centre beside St Michael’s Church closed recently too, as it is set to be demolished for the council’s big housing project, the Emmet Road development, at what was formerly St Michael’s Estate.
The library service handed the building to Dublin City Council’s property management section in summer 2022, says O’Flanagan.
The building was added to the record of protected structures in November 2022, he says.
The committee had several meetings with council managers about trying to get access to the building. “They told us they would provide interim access,” he says.
But shortly after that, the pipe burst in the attic. He now understands that the council expects the refurbishment works to take three years, he says.
“The public has a right to know what happened,” says O’Flanagan.