The future of the St Loman’s building on the Delvin Road was thrown into doubt this week with the news that the interest of the HSE’s only potential tenant has evaporated.
“I would be anxious about the future of the building. I mean, it used to be the biggest employer in the town,” said former employee and councillor, Mick Dollard.
Cllr Dollard had tabled a question at the most recent meeting of the Dublin-Mid Leinster health forum on Tuesday (April 15 ) where he enquired whether the HSE had received any expressions of interest from either the public or private sector in the now totally unoccupied gothic landmark, but was disappointed by the reply.
“The only enquiry received was from another public body who viewed a portion of the building but advised the facility did not satisfy their requirements,” said Bernard Pierce, regional estate manager for the HSE.
The Advertiser has since learnt that this was the Courts Service who will be looking for a temporary home for two years for Mullingar courthouse while the original at the bottom of Mount Street is going through its long-overdue renovation.
Coincidentally, barrister and local TD Willie Penrose is also seeking the same tenant for the vacant campus that led to his exit from Cabinet - Columb Barracks.
Deputy Penrose put his presentation to Minister Hayes for this about six weeks ago, but has not heard back from his Department as yet.
Cllr Dollard put the question to the Executive after learning that a former mental hospital in Sligo had been converted into a Radisson hotel in recent years.
He wondered if the same could be achieved for the 158-year-old building that once employed 650 staff and housed 1,200 patients but accepted: “There was a better chance 10 years ago. There’s no major urge at the minute”.
The gradual shutdown of the building over the last few years has seen the removal of laundry services, dining facilities, and the last residents into the community.
Cllr Dollard did suggest that remedial work over the last number of years on the building’s roof, pointing and dry-lining will prolong the time it can be left idle, but warned: “It’s very difficult maintaining an old building like this, trying to heat it, and all that”.
He did strike one silver note, pointing out that the new 44-bed, €5.5m extension to the admissions block would be opened by Minister Kathleen Lynch on May 8, and that this would at least ensure the continuation of on-the-job training for undergraduates from AIT’s psychiatric nursing course.