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'If you allow it to remain empty for 15 years, it will decay': Cork ponders next move for St Kevin's

The HSE plans to put it on the market, while a local councillor said it could be used for student accommodation.

Image: Cork Fire Brigade via Rollingnews.ie

THE HSE IS being urged to turn the derelict St Kevin’s in Cork city and put it back to use, after a fire gutted the iconic building on Tuesday night.

It is believed that arson is the suspected cause of the fire, and Cork Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald told TheJournal.ie that Tuesday “was a bad night for the city”.

In a statement, the HSE defended the security in place St Kevin’s and said that the site has been offered to other government departments with a view to making it available for sale on the open market.

Security issues

A number of concerns had been raised about the security at St Kevin’s, but a HSE spokesperson said today that rigorous security measures were “reviewed and updated continuously”.

They told TheJournal.ie: “The HSE have a contract in place with an external security company who provide twice daily security patrols.

To prevent unwanted access into the buildings on the campus, the HSE arranged the installation of 235 fixed panel shutters, to accessible windows and doors on lower floors of the campus buildings

“A CCTV system is installed on the perimeter of the site and is monitored on a 24/7 basis.”

They added that maintenance teams carried out weekly inspections of the site and carried out repairs as and when needed.

While no estimate is yet available for the cost of the damage, the HSE has taken further measures to protect the site.

The spokesperson said: “A continuous security presence has been placed on the site and will remain in place for the immediate future. An exclusion zone will be created around St. Kevin’s building with the use of Heras fencing.”

What next?

Today, local councillors told TheJournal.ie that accommodation for families or students could be two of several options to explore as the site has been closed and left derelict for 15 years.

The building, a large red-brick dating from the late 19th century situated just north of the Lee in the west of the city centre, has been closed and out of use since 2002.

It’s thought that up to two-thirds of the building has been destroyed in the fire. Photos of the incident seem to show the roof has completely collapsed.

2 fires_90517004 Source: Cork Fire Brigade via Rollingnews.ie

Fianna Fáil’s Sean Martin said: “Back when it closed, I thought there was a great opportunity to develop that site.

People are up in arms now, but that building has been lying vacant for well over a decade.

He said that the fire has drawn attention to the issue of derelict buildings in Cork, and that it had put a spotlight on what would happen next.

Martin said: “People are wondering how this could happen, but if you allow it to remain empty for years, it will decay. There’s no point finger-pointing now, though.”

He said that suggestions that the fire had been started deliberately come of “no surprise” and that it shows the laissez-faire approach taken with St Kevin’s as it lay empty and unused.

The HSE spokesperson said that the site had been deemed “surplus to requirements”. As a result the site was offered to other government departments under State channels. They added:

Pending confirmation from other government departments, the HSE has recently engaged with an estate agent to discuss the potential of bringing the campus to the open market.

A garda spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that investigations are ongoing into the fire, and that there have been no arrests as of yet.

Read: Firefighters bring massive fire at derelict Cork city building under control

Read: ‘We wanted to mind it; now we’re watching it burn’ – Fire has gutted one of Cork city’s best-known buildings

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Sean Murray

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