Plans afoot to rebuild and restore the Sailors Home

The Sailors' Home on O'Curry Street in Limerick City.

THE Council and other stakeholders have already begun the initial steps towards looking at the rebuild and restoration of the historic Sailors’ Home building on O’Curry Street in the city.

A leading firm of conservation engineers has been appointed by the Shannon Foynes Port Company to conduct initial assessments, councillors were told in response to a call from Labour councillor Joe Leddin and Social Democrats councillor Elisa O’Donovan to have the building restored.

“We woke up to very sad news a few weeks ago in the context of the burning of the Sailors’ Home, which is a historic building listed in the national inventory, and very much a building very familiar to both Limerick people and people from outside the city,” Cllr Leddin said at Monday’s Metropolitan District meeting.

“It’s an imposing building, built in the middle of the 18th Century, and certainly played a huge part in the commercial life of the city in terms of the port, with Limerick being a port city for many years.

“It’s use has been changed in more recent years to become a military barracks and a Garda barracks, and in the latter half of the 20th and 21st Centuries it became much more familiar in the cultural, artistic, and creative life of the city, particularly in the context of EVA exhibitions,” he added.

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Despite being owned by the Shannon Foynes Port Authority, the City West representative took the view that it raised a wider issue for the Council in terms of buildings they are listing for their use.

“It does raise the point in terms of the responsibility that the owners have, whether they are semi-states like Shannon Foynes Port Company or whether they are in private ownership. If buildings are listed in an inventory of architectural heritage then there’s a responsibility to have the buildings put to good use and not simply just sitting there,” Leddin opined.

“I only live up the road from the building and people are asking me what the next step is now. What’s the plan? Is there a plan to put a project team in place? Members of the public are asking when will a steering group be put in place and what role will the Council play in the context of the restoration.

“Everyone wants to see the building restored. Can we begin the process? That’s the question I am being asked. We need to up the game now on working on a strategy for the restoration and what we are actually going to use the building for going forward.”

Cllr Elisa O’Donovan seconded the motion and said that the building’s destruction was a wanton act of vandalism.

Limerick Civic Trust, she added, have been asking for many years to take over the management of the Sailors Home.

“Limerick Civic Trust do fantastic work in the city. They do brilliant work operating and maintaining historic structures and sites within our city. However, they are doing that on really minimal limited funding. Perhaps Shannon Foynes Port Company can work with Limerick Civic Trust to see if we can restore and manage this.

“There are a lot of art organisations using this building at the moment. I would like to see a mechanism where it is open to more community groups and it shouldn’t just be at the behest of Shannon Foynes Port Company to who they allow into this building,” Cllr O’Donovan opined.

Labour councillor Elena Secas also supported the motion.

“I know that Limerick Civic Trust are looking to restore this historical building and I think, as a local authority, if we are serious about our heritage and legacy, we have a responsibility to play our role and work together with Limerick Civic Trust and all other parties.”

Councillors were informed that within hours of the fire the local authority’s Architectural Conservation Officer had made contact with the Architectural Heritage Unit of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and the Irish Georgian Society, prior to contacting the Chief Executive of the Shannon Foynes Port Company, to make assurances of the Council’s support for the conservation, restoration ,and reconstruction of the building.

“Subsequently, discussions were held with other interested parties,” Senior Council Planner Maria Wood explained.

“A leading firm of conservation engineers has already been appointed by the Port Company to conduct initial assessments. Ongoing contact will be maintained with the relevant officials in the Port Company to determine the appropriate next steps.”