A development company called Kimpton Vale Limited has been fined €1,000 after it illegally demolished the 19th-century Presentation Convent on Terenure Road West.
It was demolished in November 2006, just two weeks after Dublin City Council began the process of adding it to the Record of Protected Structures. Bulldozers moved in to demolish the convent at 7am and by the time a council official arrived at 9.30am, so much had been razed that the remainder had to be demolished on public safety grounds.
In September 2007 Dublin City Council ordered the company, and its principal Laurence Keegan, to rebuild the convent. An Taisce were thrilled at the time.Their Heritage Officer Ian Lumley said “Dublin City Council have led the way in this regard, we welcome their decision to instruct the developer in Terenure to rebuild and we would urge other local authorities to follow their example”.
By December 2007, however, the company had ignored two opportunities to re-build it, and the Independent reported that it now faced “fines of up to €12.7m”.
Fast forward now to this Thursday in the Dublin District Court. Firstly, the charges against Laurence Keegan (who is currently disqualified from acting as a company director after he and another company he was involved with made large tax settlements with the Revenue) were struck out. This makes sense only if the judge believed that Kimpton Vale Limited is a sentient being with a mind of its own, and that Keegan had nothing to do with the decision to send the bulldozers in.
Then a solicitor for the company said “his client had been under the impression that an exemption from permission applied in this case”. Why, then, did they start the demolition at 7am? Did anyone ask the solicitor that?
And how did potential fines of €12.7 million become just one thousand euro? Why weren’t they made sell the whole site (which they paid €15m for) and fined the maximum possible?
This case says so much about regulation in Ireland. A bunch of people at the top bounce happily along, laughing down at, and holding two fingers up to, the rest of us, knowing they can do what they like and get away with it.
Kimpton Vale are now expected to apply for planning permission for the site. I’d say Keegan reckons it was €1,000 well spent.