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Future Of Inchicore Public Library Heritage Building In Major Doubt

Future Of Inchicore Public Library Heritage Building In Major Doubt

The future of the old art deco style Inchicore Public Library building, on Emmet Road, is in major doubt, with plans for its refurbishment or re-development currently stalled.

It is now almost three years since Dublin City Council (DCC) voted through plans for a major re-vamp of the library, making it wheelchair accessible and also adding extra space to provide more services. At the time, there was an expectation on behalf of the local community that it would continue to operate as a library, which has been its function since opening in 1937.

In October 2020, the council selected a building contractor, with a plan to commence work in early 2021. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic building restrictions in January 2021, non-essential construction couldn’t proceed. When these restrictions were eventually lifted in September 2021, the contractor informed the design team that they were unable to complete the work for their original tender price.

At that juncture, the council was preparing to source a new contractor, which, so far, has failed to materialise. An added problem, according to a council spokesperson, is the issue of construction inflation, which has delayed the whole renovation process. Another thorny issue that has delayed the entire process, is the failure to have the old library building listed under the DCC’s Record of Protected Structures, resulting in the site falling into a state of major disrepair.

Another major consideration, at the moment, is that a public library is included in plans for council development of cost-rental and social housing on land at the former St. Michael’s Estate. This could, effectively, mean that the Inchicore and Kilmainham areas would be serviced by two public libraries.

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“They are building a state-of-the-art one, so it kind of would be doubling up, I suppose”, said local Sinn Fein Councillor, Maire Devine, who sits on the regeneration board for St. Michael’s Estate.
According to a council spokesperson, DCC is actively looking at ways to use the old art deco building for “community services”. Devine says that the old library must be used, in some shape or form, by the community, at large: “A meeting place, a coffee place. It’s got to invite the community in”, she said.

Meanwhile, a local committee has recently been formed, under the chairmanship of local activist, Michael O’ Flanagan, with a working title of the “Inchicore Library Advisory Committee”. The main aim of this committee is to make representations on behalf of the local community to DCC, regarding the future use of the eighty-five year old building. A Facebook page has been set-up, under the banner “Save Inchicore Library Heritage Building”, providing links and commentary which are relevant to the campaign.

A number of committee meetings have already been held, with a view to formulating a plan for the future use of the now semi-derelict structure. Proposed uses already suggested include: returning the building to its original use as a public library; converting the building into an arts and culture centre, showcasing local talent and converting the building into a community centre.

Leaving aside the future use of the building, the council still has to solve the problem of universal accessibility, according to Devine. During the closure of the old library, the local community have had to resort to the use of a temporary library at Richmond Barracks, off Emmet Road and adjacent to the site at the former St. Michael’s Estate.
According to local Labour Party Councillor, Darragh Moriarty, the limited services available in this temporary library may have been sufficient during the pandemic. However, since all restrictions were lifted in January of this year, demand for use of the library’s facilities has increased, underlining the need for a return to a fully functioning public library for the area.

A spokesperson for DCC said that the temporary library at Richmond Barracks provides the same opening hours as the old art deco library: “It’s open six days a week, with two late-nights”, he said.
“In addition, the availability of other spaces in Richmond Barracks, including an outdoor space, means that a broader range of activities can be provided than was the case in the old building”, he added.
“Collaboration with the Dublin City Council Culture Company, who manage this building, will also lead to enhanced services”, he concluded.

Plans for the former St. Michael’s Estate development, including the new library, have been lodged by DCC with An Bord Pleanala on 7th October 2022, with a decision expected on 11th April 2023.
https://www.pleanala.ie/en-ie/case/314791

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