People in Limerick feel "robbed" of a chance to say goodbye to a cherished Georgian landmark of the city after it was demolished despite a lengthy campaign to save the building.
Curragower House, a historic red brick building, was razed in the early hours of Saturday morning after a previous demolition was postponed in January.
The iconic house has stood on the banks of the Shannon since its construction in the late eighteenth century and was a much-valued feature of the city's heritage according to local councillor, Elisa O'Donovan.
Although expected, the timing of the demolition has left many in the community at a loss for the city's history.
"People are really saddened. I walked by it a couple of times yesterday and people stopped to chat to me," said Ms O'Donovan.
"And the riverside is so unique. We're so proud of our history around the river. And I think everyone thinks it was a backwards step yesterday," she said.
Campaigners had lobbied continuously for the house's protection since plans to construct a new modern apartment block in its place were first announced in 2018.
Several groups, including An Taisce, had suggested that the existing structure and facade of the house should be maintained and used in any future developments on the site.
An Taisce had wanted the building to be given protected status. It is also understood that the Limerick Chapter Of the Irish Georgian Society had written to the local authority asking for the building to be restored rather than destroyed. The Society said the building was "architecturally significant".
"What a lot of people said is that they wished they could have said goodbye to it. And I know that seems a bit strange but it's been part of our lives for so long," said Ms O'Donovan, " For it to be demolished in the early morning, dead of the night, [..] I think people felt robbed of a goodbye."
Michelle Hayes of the Environmental Trust Ireland, who is a local solicitor as well as the former chair of An Taisce in Limerick, had lodged six separate submissions to An Bord Pleanála to have the building saved.
Ms Hayes said An Bord Pleanála inspector had agreed with her submissions, but that their report was later overruled after a split decision within An Bord Pleanála.
In its reasoning, An Bord Pleanala relied on the fact that Curragower House was not a protected structure or proposed protected structure.
Ms Hayes told thethat the loss of the building was "a travesty."
“The destruction of the 18th century Georgian building, Curragower House is a complete travesty and presents an enormous loss to the historic, visual, cultural and architectural heritage of Limerick City and County.
"It is irreplaceable and now gone forever."
Ms Hayes said it was now "imperative" that measures are put in place to prevent any further demolition or destruction of buildings that form part of Limerick's Georgian, medieval and viking heritage.
"Lessons have to be learned from the fate of Curragower House and there are serious questions for Limerick Council to address.," she said.
Ms Hayes called on the Planning Regulator to conduct a full investigation in relation to how the administration and executive of Limerick City and County Council dealt with Curragower House, including its refusal to implement the wishes of the Limerick people and of Councillors to protect it.
"The conduct of Limerick Council executive requires, at the minimum, a full explanation," she said.
Ms Hayes said she was particularly disappointed for the people of Limerick whose fondness and regard for Curragower House was evident throughout the campaign to save it.