Objection to international rugby museum in Limerick stirs up tensions

Maria Flannery

Reporter:

Maria Flannery

An artist’s impression of the proposed development on O’Connell Street

An artist’s impression of the proposed development on O’Connell Street

PLANS for a major rugby museum development on Limerick city centre’s main thoroughfare have sown division between politicians and groups, after an appeal was made to An Bord Pleanala about the plans.

An Taisce objected to the planning permission for the proposed multi-million euro development at the corner of O’Connell Street and Cecil Street, which is being backed by JP McManus and endorsed by Paul O’Connell.

The appeal was made on a number of conservational grounds, as Limerick members of An Taisce believe that the modern design would undermine the city’s Georgian core.

An Taisce is arguing that the architectural conservation area, as set out in the city development plan, has a legal status and must be protected. The group supports the idea of a rugby museum but does not agree with the chosen location.

But some people have criticised the objection, including FG Cllr Daniel Butler, who told a meeting of the council on Monday that he was “extremely disappointed” to see that an attempt had been made to halt the project, which would provide employment, city centre footfall, and “development fees and commercial rates” for the council.

“The reasons cited by An Taisce don't stack up. This building has no real Georgian features remaining on the outside due to plastering, making it near impossible to restore, or within the interior which has been previously gutted. The height of the building is by no means out of kilter with the existing streetscape if you look across the road at the AIB building or The George Boutique Hotel, which are of very similar height,” argued the councillor.

“The architect Niall McLaughlin, who is recognised internationally, cited several examples of Georgian precedents from places like Dublin, Oxford and Edinburgh of buildings built much taller than their neighbours often signifying civic status. I value our Georgian buildings and history but we must be realistic what we can and cannot save or renovate,” added Cllr Butler.

Former mayor Kevin Kiely also took aim at “self-elected” An Taisce, urging them to withdraw the appeal.

“An Taisce have a lot to answer for in Limerick over the past 20 years. They have continually objected to projects and have hindered the development of the city,” he said.