Locals pleaded with council not to sell children’s recreational site to Niall Collins’s wife

Residents of a housing estate pleaded with Limerick County Council not to sell a children’s recreational site to junior minister Niall Collins's wife.

The Ditch reported yesterday that Collins was one of only seven councillors who voted to sell the council-owned site that was bought by his wife Eimear O’Connor. She had asked to buy the site a month before the vote.

It can now be revealed that the Patrickswell site – which O’Connor left vacant for almost 15 years after her purchase – was a green area that local children and a nearby primary school, for decades, used for recreational activities.

‘Construction on the site would deprive the children’

Eimear O’Connor in December 2007 sought permission from Limerick County Council to build a medical centre with offices and two apartments overhead on the Marian Park, Patrickswell green area site.

Nine months earlier, she had made a deal to buy the site from the council, subject to obtaining permission for her proposed development.

Local residents were unhappy that their children's recreational space was being sold for private development and instructed a solicitor to object on their behalf.

“The proposed site of the development has historically and continues to be utilised as a recreational area… by local children. We also understand that the local school children in the nearby primary school regularly use this green space for both educational and recreational activities,” wrote O’Gorman Solicitors in their letter dated 29 January, 2008, sent on behalf of 15 Marian Park residents.

The letter went on to say that “construction on the site would deprive the children and their families of this vital local amenity and diminish their access to play areas which are already scant in the area”.

The solicitor also criticised “the sale of a local amenity area to private individuals” and expressed concern that it would “set an unwelcome precedent”.

Despite the residents’ concerns, O’Connor received planning permission for a medical centre and offices. She became the legal owner of the site in January 2009. She didn’t however build the proposed medical centre, instead leaving the site vacant for almost 15 years.

Before the green area was sold to O’Connor, it included hedging and a number of species of trees. The hedging and trees were cut down after the sale of the site and no other development has taken place since.

In 2019 the council granted O’Connor permission for four houses on the vacant site. The local residents successfully appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála (ABP).

Despite ABP’s decision, O’Connor again applied for permission. This time she wanted to build five houses. Again the council granted permission and the decision was not appealed to ABP.

O’Connor is negotiating with the council to sell it the five yet-to-be-built properties for use as social housing.

Limerick City and County Council declined to comment.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors