Serious questions were raised at Monday’s city council meeting to have land in Ballindooley listed as a heritage site, which some councillors suspected was a means to block a proposed Traveller halting site for the area.
The 1.11 acre site contains a 1950s bungalow, a hay shed, two barns, and a farmer’s cottage that is currently being used as a shed. A famine cottage is also located on the edge of the site.
In a letter to councillors, director of services Tom Connell outlined that the buildings are “not deserving of inclusion in the listing, having regard to the nature of the buildings on site, their condition and use, period of construction and uniqueness”.
It became apparent during the debate that some councillors were keeping the underlying reason for listing the lands to themselves, leading to their colleagues raising serious questions as to the motivation behind seeking the listing.
Independent councillors Declan McDonnell directed his questions to the top table about the site: “I believe there is another issue. There seems to be another story, but no one is telling us what story.”
Labour’s Cllr Tom Costello said the council’s duty was not to protect a modern house on scrap land but to only protect the famine cottage.
“The location of the famine cottage is on the back end of the site and would not impede any developments,” he said.
The outspoken Labour councillor Colette Connolly spoke up about the real issues facing the site: “There is no heritage officer’s report, there is no photo of the famine cottage. So what we have is a 1950s’ house and a barn. Is this one of the six sites located for the Travellers’ halting site?” she said.
City manager Joe O’Neill informed Cllr Connolly that it was in fact on of the sites earmarked as a proposed halting site.
It then became apparent that if the site was listed as a heritage site it would in turn block the chance of it being proposed in the future as a halting site.
A proposal was made from Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Michael J Crowe that residents, area councillors, and the executive should meet to discuss issues over the site, and that the item be left on the agenda.
Councillors agreed to look further into the issue, and no decision was made on the listing of the famine cottage, or the lands it rests upon.