Five units of the Cork City Fire Brigade were needed to tackle a large blaze at the old St Kevin’s unit at the former Our Lady’s Hospital site in Shanakiel.
The fireat the now derelict building was reported at around 8.30pm. Five units of the Cork City Fire Brigade rushed to the scene and were backed by a tanker from the Mallow unit of the Cork County Fire Service.
The duty fire officer said “all available resources” were directed to the scene to bring the fire under control.
St Kevin’s is part of the larger Our Lady’s Hospital complex — an imposing red brick structure overlooking the River Lee.
Built in the 1840s as a mental health institution, its construction and size gradually meant it became not fit for purpose according to modern standards.As a result, its closure began on a phased basis from the early 1990s.
Our Lady’s, known locally as the “grey building”, and the St Bridget’s unit, closed in the early 1990s.
Our Lady’s, St Bridget’s, and a number of smaller buildings were subsequently sold by the former Southern Health Board.
St Kevin’s, St Ann’s, St Dympna’s, and St John’s closed between 2001 and 2009.
Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould, who has been raising the issue of dereliction at the site for the last five years, said there have been at least five large-scale fires there in a decade.
“We told the authorities. We warned them. I’ve been raising it for five years,” said Mr Gould.
“But it’s like the Good Shepherd situation all over again. These buildings have to be burned to the ground before we do something about this.
“We are dealing with a homeless crisis, and what we could have done up there, with hundreds of units lying idle.”
Another local Sinn Féin councillor, Mick Nugent, said “questions need to be asked” about why repeated calls for the site to be made secure have not been heeded over the years.
“It’s regrettable and a real shame. We will have to wait and assess the level of damage that has occurred but, clearly, questions need to be asked as to why these buildings have not been made secure and as to whether or not they could have been used for other purposes like housing,” he said.
Mr Nugent also said it was “regrettable” that a number of fires involving iconic Cork buildings in recent years had meant part of the city’s history was being lost.
“It’s unfortunate that the north-west of the city has seen a couple of significant fires in the past few years — such as the one on the site of the Sunday’s Well Convent in Sunday’s Well,” he said. “These are iconic buildings and we are losing part of the city’s history — a lot of it a very sad history. These buildings are full of stories, many of them involving a lot of heartache and pain for a lot of people.”
The building is still in the ownership of the HSE, and HSE officials were on scene last night assessing the damage.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved