THE former garda barracks on O’Curry Street is being restored to its former glory after Shannon Foynes Port Company spent €500,000 renovating the 19th century building.
It remains to be decided to what use the Limerick landmark - constructed the 1850s - will be put. The port company may use it as office space or could lease it for commercial use.
Collins Building and Engineering began renovations in August. Works have been completed to fit-out stage with furnishings and interior and exterior paintwork to follow.
Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon, a director at Shannon Foynes, said he was delighted to see the former barracks getting a new lease of life.
“It is fantastic to see this building brought back to its old glory as it has gradually fallen into a state of disrepair over the past two decades. The barracks is architecturally one of the finest buildings in Limerick from that era so it’s great to see it restored and ready for use again,” he commented. “We are currently deciding on its future use but it will be as a commercial premises,” Cllr O’Hanlon added.
The building was originally built to provide safe lodgings for international sailors, with many Limerick notables of the 1850s contributing to what some saw a charitable venture aimed at saving the mariners from vice. Others, such as city merchants, had more self-interested motives in ensuring seamen were shipshape.
A site for the sailor’s home was provided by the Limerick Harbour Board but research carried out by historian Dr Tadhg Moloney found no evidence the property was ever used for this purpose.
It was subsequently leased as a barracks to the Limerick City Militia, the Royal Irish Constabulary and eventually An Garda Siochana. The initial 99-year lease with the RIC expired in 2010 when the property reverted to the Harbour Board’s successors, Shannon Foynes. That lease was originally signed by RIC Inspector-General Neville Chamberlain, who is credited as the father of snooker.
Another chapter recalled by Dr Moloney was an attempt by anti-Treaty forces to burn the barracks down during the Civil War. The blaze was put out by locals fearful that they could have a catastrophe on their hands if it spread to the nearby gasworks.