The HSE has moved to reassure those concerned about derelict, or mostly unused, properties it owns that steps are being taken to ensure they do not meet the same fate as the St Kevin’s facility in Cork which was gutted by fire this week.
It came as local representatives throughout the country voiced fears that older buildings, still in the ownership of the HSE, needed to be protected in the short term and a use found for them in the long term, in light of Tuesday’s fire.
Gardaí are investigating the blaze which caused extensive damage to the former mental health facility, which had been unused since 2002.
A forensic report is expected shortly and, most likely, it will confirm the fire had been started deliberately.
The HSE said on Thursday that an initial visual assessment of the listed building indicated it was salvageable.
It had earlier emerged that the building had been offered to government departments and that if this option had not been taken up, discussions already had been held regarding the possibility of a public sale. Enhanced security measures have also been placed around St Kevin’s ahead of a more comprehensive structural assessment.
Cllr Paddy Kavanagh, the former chairman of Wexford County Council, said he was concerned about the HSE facility at St Senan’s Hospital on the outskirts of Enniscorthy.
Mr Kavanagh said apart from some clerical staff, the building, larger than St Kevin’s, was not in use. The HSE had recently put the building and 90 acres associated with it up for sale.
In relation to such buildings, Mr Kavanagh said: “All the relevant agencies are going to have to sit down and come up with a solution.”
He said the heritage listing of buildings in some cases made it more difficult to pitch for sale or alternative uses.
Another former psychiatric institution, St Finan’s Hospital in Killarney, Co Kerry, was mentioned by others as needing protecting. A HSE spokesperson said the authority was aware people may have concerns regarding other buildings but that efforts were continuing to ensure they were properly secured.
“Neither St Finan’s in Killarney nor St Senan’s in Enniscorthy are fully vacant but are expected to be vacated over the coming months,” said the spokesperson.
“Contracts for sale have recently been exchanged between the HSE and a buyer for St Senan’s in Enniscorthy and the staff will vacate the building at that stage. Security is being maintained on site, outside normal hours, pending completion of the contract for sale.
“While part of St Finan’s is vacant, there are still residents in the O’Connor unit and that part of the site is currently in use. These residents will shortly transfer to a new 40-bed unit (Deer Lodge). In the meantime, the site as a whole is not vacant.
“Security measures on the current vacant building include steel mesh to ground floor windows, web-based security systems and some additional security fencing. These measures will be extended to the space currently occupied when vacated.”
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