Lord Mayor calls on a plan for Our Lady’s Hospital after fire guts St Kevin's unit

Lord Mayor calls on a plan for Our Lady’s Hospital after fire guts St Kevin's unit
Aerial shot of the damage caused by a fire at St. Kevin's derilict building on Cork's Northside. Picture Evan Shelly.

THE Lord Mayor of Cork has called for a masterplan to be developed for the Our Lady's Hospital site on the Lee Road which could include new housing and office developments.

The vast site is home to the former St Kevin's unit which was destroyed in a fire last week.

Two-thirds of the five-storey red-brick building's roof is in ruins, with several supporting internal pillars also significantly damaged.

A report from a building control officer on the future of the building is expected 'shortly', according to Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, the Lord Mayor of Cork.

Mr Fitzgerald has called on city officials to develop and implement a strategy for the entire Shanakiel area, including all historically significant buildings.

Speaking at last night's meeting of Cork City Council, he said, "It is an emergency. We can all look into the ‘hows and whys’, but right now we have a site that is both a planning and environmental health issue.

"One development won't solve the problems there and we need major developments - a masterplan - in the entire area, which will look at the major issues in the area, including the road network."

Elected members had a lengthy debate about the historic site at last night's meeting.

Questions were asked about what could have been done with the historic structure, with suggestions of housing and office developments made.

Concerns were also raised about the impact of any such plan on the existing communities of Shanakiel and Sunday's Well, though.

Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould described himself as 'upset and angry' as he watched the building burn.

He criticised the HSE for their management of the site, which lay idle for more than a decade.

"It is a disgrace that this was allowed to happen," he said.

"After we saw the Good Shepherd Convent burn down, we said that St Kevin's would be next. What comes next? We need a major plan for this site and this area."

Other elected members pointed to fires at Vernon Mount last year and at the former Our Lady's Hospital in 2010.

Solidarity's Fiona Ryan said, "The longer these buildings are left derelict, the more they attract antisocial behaviour."

However, others pointed out the major structural issues in the area in terms of development.

The road network in Sunday's Well and Shanakiel is narrow and already faces large volumes of traffic.

Other proposed developments, including plans for apartments on the site of the former Good Shepherd convent, have been with met opposition by residents, who claim that the area cannot take extra traffic.

Independent Thomas Moloney said, "The roads and other infrastructure up there are not fit for purpose. It is virtually impossible for traffic to make it up and down."

Fine Gael's John Buttimer added, "There was no economic viability in St Kevin's as it was - that is why it was turned down when offered to government departments.

"There is unrivalled potential on this site but the building wasn't fit for modern purpose."

Fianna Fáil's Terry Shannon said there is no 'simple solution' for the future of the building.

He said, "I imagine that with the size of the site, people in the area would have had huge concerns about converting it to housing. Not everything is suitable in that regard."

A spokesperson for City Hall noted that there is 'an opportunity cost' for buildings of the nature of St Kevin's, noting that, where possible, the city has intervened to preserve other historic buildings, including St Peter's Church and the Boole House.

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