Senator Colm Burke has called on senior health officials to devise a strategy to deal with the neglect of the buildings in Our Lady’s complex, at Shanakiel on the northside of Cork City.
The issue was raised in the Seanad last week with Mr Burke seeking clarification from the Department of Health and the HSE on the status of the site.
The Fine Gael member said most of the complex has been vacant for 20 years and remained in a dangerous and deteriorating condition.
“We can’t just leave it sitting there. The HSE must actively explore what interest there may be in some form of development on the site.”
He said that part of the city has been particularly badly affected by large derelict buildings — citing the example of the former Good Shepherd Convent which burned down last November.
Our Lady’s Hospital was built in the 1840s as a mental health institution.
But its construction and size meant that it was not fit for purpose according to current standards and its closure began on a phased basis from the early 1990s.
Our Lady’s, also known as the “grey building”, and 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.
St Ann’s was replaced by a high-security mental health facility now known as Carrigmore — a stand- alone facility separated from the rest of the campus by a pitch and putt course and roads.
Junior finance minister with responsibility for public buildings, Brian Hayes said the HSE seeks value for money in deciding whether to sell or redevelop properties.
He said HSE property management is governed by certain protocols, and its property committee will reject any proposal that does not meet these requirements and which does not achieve value for money.
“Although the property market has been particularly difficult since 2009 and prices can be extremely ‘location, situation and condition’ dependent, the HSE is managing to sell properties,” he said.
“This represents a considerable achievement given the current property market and the type of property the HSE has to sell.
“However, the Shanakiel campus topography, and the presence of rights of way make its disposal a particularly complex undertaking.”
But Mr Burke said the fact remains that most of the units of the former hospital complex are now derelict and pose a danger, with access available to the public.
He called on the HSE to make the site safe while a long-term strategy for complex was devised.