Cork fire: HSE defends level of security at St Kevin’s

The HSE has defended the level of security it had in place at the St Kevin’s unit in Cork, but would not reveal how much it had cost in recent years.

The gutted remains of St Kevin's unit on the grounds of the former Our Lady's Hospital, Cork.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner yesterday, the HSE said only that the cost of security at the former mental health facility had been appropriate.

The Irish Examiner had previously published figures, revealed to the Dáil’s public accounts committee in 2008, showing that between 2002 and 2007, €1,590,975 was spent on security at the site — over €300,000 a year, or nearly €6,000 a week.

That figure was revealed by the then health minister, Mary Harney.

Asked about the costs of recent years, a HSE spokesperson said: “We are satisfied that the security in place was appropriate, and that the amount spent was reasonable.”

In light of Tuesday night’s blaze, the level of security is being increased, including an exclusion zone around the building, which now needs to be reviewed by an engineer regarding its structural integrity.

The spokesperson said: “A continuous security presence has been placed on the site and will remain in place for the immediate future.

“Once allowed by the fire service and An Garda Síochána, the St Kevin’s building will be evaluated by a structural engineer to assess the integrity of the structure.

“In the interim period, an exclusion zone will be created around St Kevin’s building with the use of Heras fencing.”

The HSE could not put an estimate on the cost of the damage, which will be reviewed, particularly as it also emerged that the HSE had recently contacted government departments to see if they wished to use the building.

Discussions had also taken place with an estate agent regarding the possibility of putting it on the open market.

“Pending confirmation from other government departments, the HSE have recently engaged with an estate agent to discuss the potential of bringing the campus to the open market,” said the HSE.

“A property valuation is being prepared by an estate agent, should the property be put on the open market, in the event that other State agencies are not interested in acquiring the campus.”

The HSE said it was satisfied that security measures for other buildings under its ownership are adequate.

“All buildings, including vacant buildings or facilities, are inspected and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that appropriate security is in place,” said the HSE spokesperson.

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