Transfer of Lenaboy Castle into public ownership still not completed

St. Anne's, Taylors Hill.

Agreement to transfer Lenaboy Castle into public ownership hasn’t been reached – almost three months after the deal was announced.

In early September, Galway City Council issued a statement to announce the Sisters of Mercy will transfer St Anne’s Children’s Home in Taylor’s Hill to the local authority. A cash payment of €750,000 was to be included in the deal, the Council said.

But nearly three months later, the deal hasn’t been finalised and won’t be until the New Year at the earliest.

The Council has refused to release documents relating to Lenaboy to this newspaper under Freedom of Information (FOI) request, citing a legal process. This process, the Council representative said, refers to the “potential acquisition of Lenaboy Castle”.

Use of the word “potential” suggested the acquisition was not the done deal the original statement issued in September 11 indicated.

And a Council spokesperson yesterday confirmed there are a number of outstanding issues before the deal closes.

“The transfer is still subject to ‘Contract/Contract denied.’ There are a number of outstanding issues which include the completion by the Sisters of Mercy of reports on traffic impact, access, a geo-physical survey and other internal building surveys.

“These are not expected to be completed before year-end. However, subject to ‘Contract/Contract denied’, the Chief Executive (of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath) hopes that the transfer will take place before the end of quarter one in 2018,” a spokesperson said.

Last month, Catherine Corless, the historian who uncovered a mass grave at the Tuam Mother and Babies Home, raised concerns of a similar burial site at Lenaboy, a former orphanage.

And this week Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has suggested access to historical documents relating to Lenaboy is being blocked.

The Sinn Féin representative raised the issue in the Seanad on Tuesday, where he asked the Minister for Housing to intervene to have all relevant paperwork released.

“It is a former Black and Tans barracks. We know from historical documents that there are tunnels under this building and some of the land surrounding it. I understand that heritage and archaeology reports have been done on the site. We have asked for these to be made available, but there appears to be some blockage in that regard,” said Senator Ó Clochartaigh.

He added: “We want to ascertain whether there are burial grounds on the site. Is the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government aware of these reports, has he had sight of them and has he been consulted on the transfer of that building and land to Galway City Council, which has also been given €750,000 by the Sisters of Mercy as part of that deal?

“If, God forbid, there is need for an archaeological survey at this site, similar to that being carried out in Tuam, will there be an associated cost and if so, will it fall on the State, Galway City Council or some other agency? I wish to ascertain whether the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has been made aware of these issues and whether he has received a report in this regard.”