Mary Upton: 'outrageous'

THE Department of the Environment is investigating the failure of Dublin City Council to add a 19th century chapel on the grounds of St James's Hospital to the list of protected structures.

An Bord Pleanála has given Synchrony Properties Ltd permission to build a 200-bed, eight-storey private hospital on the St James's Hospital site as part of the government's co-location plan. The decision allows Synchrony to demolish St James's chapel to make way for the building.

Some 50 residents in Rialto objected to the application on the grounds that many of them use the church.

Labour councillor John Gallagher first raised concerns that a recommendation by area councillors in June 2008 to add the church to the council's list of protected structures was not brought before a full council meeting. In August 2008, in a letter to the city architects division, the acting council conservation officer said she had changed her mind about her recommendation to add the chapel to the list. She said she had reversed the recommendation "in light of arguments put forward by Mr Carter [CEO of St James's Hospital]".

Ian Carter argued that the hospital development was of such "national importance" that the demolition of the chapel was "imperative".

In January this year, Dublin City manager John Tierney said the process of listing the chapel was "halted" because the council was made aware of the private hospital proposal.

"It was felt that the councillors should consider the application for the listing of the chapel in the context of the proposed development ... However, that presentation was not made. The councillors weren't informed of this situation in error," he said.

A spokesman at the department confirmed its officials asked the city council to supply it with information regarding the decision not to add the chapel to its protected list.

"The information received is still under examination within the department," he said.

Labour TD Mary Upton said the decision to place a building on the protected list is a reserved function of city councillors. "In this case, the non-elected city council officials unilaterally made a decision not to include this item on the agenda of the full city council meeting. This is outrageous and I am calling on John Gormley to fully investigate the matter," she said.