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Residents question why public barred from Dublin city park maintained by Council and owned by religious order

Dublin City Council maintains the private park in Dublin 7.

The Four Masters Park.
The Four Masters Park.
Image: Sheila Ahern

RESIDENTS IN DUBLIN have questioned why a religious order which uses public resources to maintain a park in Dublin city centre is refusing to open the grounds to the public. 

The Four Masters Park in front of the Mater Hospital in Dublin 7 is owned by the Sisters of Mercy. However, Dublin City Council maintains and landscapes the green area.

Despite public monies being used for the upkeep of the grounds, the gates of the park are padlocked shut.

Dublin City Council says it has approached the order of nuns in the past but an agreement could not be reached about opening the park. 

Local residents groups and politicians in the area have spoken of their frustration that a green area in one of the country’s most densely-populated areas is cordoned off in the middle of the so-called “outside summer”, despite being funded by taxpayer money. 

Sheila Ahern,  a member of the Berkeley Road Residents Association, told The Journal that she and the association have been trying to get the gates of the park unlocked so locals can use the amenities. 

She said there have been numerous attempts to get the park to open but none have proven successful. 

Ahern said: “I think they just didn’t want undesirables coming in but considering Covid and the dearth of green space in the area, it’s kind of a slap in the face to see the gates chained up. 

“We have been speaking to the council about this for years but it appears they can’t get the permission to open it. But you look at it, on a warm day like today, it’d be great if it were open. It is somewhere to go and sit down, to have a sandwich on your break from work, or somewhere to let the kids play.”

Local Green Party councillor Janet Horner agreed with Ahern and said it is something which has been on the agenda for too long.

She told The Journal: “The pandemic brings home how much public space should be open – pandemic or not. Green spaces in the inner city are at a premium and are a really important aspect of physical and mental well-being.

“It’s such a waste of public space. People could sit and meet and it could be great for the local community.”

Horner said that she will continue to campaign for the park to be opened to the public. 

Some frustrated residents have also taken to writing messages in chalk outside the locked gates. 

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image (4) Source: Sheila Ahern

Asked about the exact amount of money spent on maintaining the park since the start of 2020, a spokesperson for the council said: “Dublin City Council does not have a costing on the maintenance of this park. DCC has approached the Sisters of Mercy in the past but no agreement was reached to open the park to the public.”

A Metrolink station is due to be built under the park when construction begins on the long-delayed 19km high-frequency rail line. 

The planning proposal document says that “architectural structures and sculptures” in the park will be “carefully removed, preserved and restored on completion of the works” so that the proposed Mater station can be built. 

The Sisters of Mercy have owned land in the area since 1850, when they bought 15 acres on Eccles Street and began the building of the Mater hospital on the site in 1855. The Archbishop of Dublin, Daniel Murray, opened the hospital in 1861.

The site included a plot of land in front of the main hospital entrance on Eccles Street known as The Mater Plot, which later became the Four Masters Park.

The Sisters of Mercy were contacted for comment.

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