Calls for security review on grounds of former psychiatric facility in Cork after another suspicious fire

Calls for security review on grounds of former psychiatric facility in Cork after another suspicious fire
The St Kevin’s building has been boarded up since it was gutted in an arson attack in July 2017.

There have been calls for a full review of security on the grounds of a fire-damaged former psychiatric facility in Cork city after another suspicious fire.

Several wheelie bins were set alight close to the former St Kevin’s building on the grounds of the former Our Lady’s Mental Hospital on the Lee Road in Cork on St Stephen’s night.

The landmark St Kevin’s building has been boarded up since it was gutted in an arson attack in July 2017.

Video by Evan Shelly

The alarm was raised just after 9pm on Wednesday when onlookers on the other side of the river Lee spotted flames to the left of the listed building.

Two units of Cork City Fire Brigade were tasked to the scene where they found several wheelie bins ablaze in a covered walkway. They contained the fires quickly.

Sinn Féin Cllr Thomas Gould, who has repeatedly called for the site to be used for housing, described the latest incident as a worrying development.

“The HSE has spent tens of thousands of euro on security since the fire in 2017 to protect what is an asset of the state. That security needs to be reviewed,” he said.

The 19th-century red-brick building had fallen into dereliction since it became vacant in 2002 before a devastating fire ripped through the structure in July 2017.

It was subsequently boarded up and made secure before it, 14-acres of surrounding land and associated buildings, were offered for sale by the HSE on the open market last March.

But in October, the newly established Land Development Agency (LDA) confirmed that it was in talks with the HSE to acquire the site for housing.

Cllr Gould said that process must now be fast-tracked.

“We are in the midst of the worst housing crisis in the history of the state and yet we have places like this lying idle, with no plan in place,” he said.

“It highlights the government’s slow pace of delivery on housing - especially in relation to landbanks like this.

The St Kevin’s building has been boarded up since it was gutted in an arson attack in July 2017.
The St Kevin’s building has been boarded up since it was gutted in an arson attack in July 2017.

“Realistically, I can’t see anything happening with this site for five to 10 years - unless someone is given sole charge of bringing it online for housing.

“And I think UCC and CIT should be brought in on this given the issue of student accommodation.

“This site could be perfect for mixed tenure, with a mix of social, affordable, private rented and student accommodation.”

Elevated and set directly opposite the Kingsley Hotel, the site is within 2.5km of the city centre, and within a kilometre of the Apple HQ at Hollyhill.

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