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Bishop Lucey Park in Cork City Centre Alamy Stock Photo
Cork City Council

Cork City Council to vote on selling portion of park to Freemasons for €1

A fire escape and lift would be constructed at the back of the 18th-century building if the sale is approved.

CORK CITY COUNCIL will take a vote on Monday to determine whether the city will sell a 53-square-metre section of Bishop Lucey Park to a lodge of the Freemasons for €1, plus costs of €1,500.

The council voted last year that it could contravene the city’s development plan to allow planning permission for the land, which is the equivalent of just over four parking spaces in size, to be granted to the Freemasons. 

Next week’s vote will determine whether the council will actually dispose of the land and transfer it to the Masonic Hall at 27 Tuckey Street, Cork City South-Central councillor Paudie Dineen explained.

If the sale is approved, it would grant the Freemasons enough space to build a fire escape and a lift at the back of the hall, he told The Journal.

The Freemasons are a fraternal organisation whose main operations in Ireland include charity fundraising. The Irish organisation’s website says freemasonry ”enables men from different parts of society to meet together as equals, regardless of religious background, political leaning, class or any other social category”.

“I voted in favour of the land being disposed of in the interest of safety. The building is three storeys high, and they needed a fire escape and because there was a preservation order on the  building, they were unable to put it internally,” he said.

The hall is approximately 250 years old and contains stalls and paneling from the former St Fin Barre’s Cathedral which are over 300 years old, according to the city council.

FREEMAOSNS The Freemasons' Hall on Cork's Tuckey Street with Bishop Lucey Park on the right Google Streetview Google Streetview

Fellow South-Central councillor Dan Boyle has opposed the plans due to what he sees as a loss of valuable green space in Cork city centre.

“The part of the park that would be sold is relatively small, but it’s a part of the park where there are a considerable number of trees,” the Green Party councillor said.

The parcel of land being proposed contains 15 semi-mature birch trees.

“You’re talking about a city centre that has very few green areas in any case. So that’s why there’s a concern about reducing the small amount that is there,” he continued.

“The solution to the fire safety issue could involve other buildings, it could involve the hall getting access to other buildings on Tuckey Street.”

“I don’t think enough thought has been given to what could be done on either side of the building rather than using the back of it which affects the park.”

The decision to allow planning permission for the possible sale of the land was passed by a two thirds majority last year, while the vote on selling the land next week requires a simple majority, Boyle said.

“It seems like it will go through but I’ll be indicating my own personal unhappiness and voting against the proposal,” he said.

Boyle added that the €1-plus-cost price on the land is open for amendment from the council but that the size of the land and the importance of fire safety were factors in setting the price so low.

PARK1 The back of the Freemasons' Hall where the proposed fire escape would be built and the area of the park being voted on Google Streetview Google Streetview

The sale of the land would also come with the condition that non-Freemason community groups can access the hall for approximately 20 hours per month, a stipulation that both Boyle and Dineen are in favour of.

Dineen said: “I think that it’s good that that’s happening, that the public can go in to see part of our history. It’s part of what Cork is.”

“It’s a part of our society that people don’t get to see. The fire safety plan at the hall will also include a lift so people with disabilities can also access all floors,” he said.

Boyle added that if the sale does go ahead, the increased public access to the hall would be a silver lining.

“There’s no doubt that it’s an interesting building, and it has cultural wealth that could be explored a bit more.”

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