Donohoe donor, chair of inner-city regeneration board hoarded city centre sites for more than a decade

Government appointed Designer Group CEO and personal friend of Paschal Donohoe, Michael Stone, to chair an inner-city regeneration body – despite Stone hoarding development sites in the Fine Gael minister’s home constituency.

Stone is the businessman from whose company Donohoe in 2016 received a donation the public expenditure minister failed to declare. Donohoe is to make a further statement on the matter in the Dáil tomorrow.

Stone twice received planning permission for developments on the derelict site – which his company didn’t follow through on – before a Fine Gael government appointed him chairperson of the Dublin North East Inner City Programme Implementation Board. According to its website the organisation aims to oversee the “economic regeneration of the area”.

Dublin City Council meanwhile would not say why the Parnell Street, Dublin 1 development land is not on the vacant sites register.

A site vacant for more than a decade

Michael Stone, along with business partners Shane Murphy and Philip Conlon, in 2006 bought numbers 3,4,5 and 6 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, which comprised a site and derelict buildings.

After the 2008 property crash Murphy ran into financial difficulty and in 2010 was hit with a judgment for €3 million over an unpaid loan with ACC bank.

Around the time of Murphy’s difficulties, the trio sold the sites to Locket Connections Ltd, a company controlled and owned by Stone through his Designer Group firm.

According to the property price register Locket Connections bought the Parnell Street sites in July 2010 for €750,000.

Just months later, in September 2010, Dublin City Council declared the Parnell Street buildings dangerous structures and issued Stone with a formal notice that it would take legal action against him unless they were made safe.

In November 2011 the council granted Stone’s company permission to construct an 18-bedroom boutique hotel at 3-6 Parnell Street. In December 2016 the company successfully renewed the planning permission for a further five years.

The hotel was never built.

In July 2017 a Fine Gael government appointed Stone chairperson of the Dublin North East Inner City Programme Implementation Board (NEIC). The state board, according to a government press release last year, aims to achieve the “long-term social and economic regeneration” of the northeast inner city.

Having originally bought the site for €750,000, in late 2018 Stone’s company finally sold it for €1.9 million to Donegal hoteliers the McGettigan Hotel Group, according to company accounts.

When asked why he did nothing with the sites for more than a decade, a spokesperson for the Designer Group told The Ditch, “Michael Stone has no comment to make”.

Dublin City Council did not comment when asked why the Parnell Street development land was never added to the vacant sites register.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors