*Mountshannon House. Photograph: John Mangan
An East Clare property acquired nineteen years ago to provide social housing has been let run “into disrepair”, no tenant has occupied the building in almost two decades.
In 2002, Respond Voluntary Housing Association purchased Mountshannon House as an option of accommodation for persons on Clare County Council’s social housing list. The purchase was financed by a loan raised by the local authority.
Administrative officer with the housing section of Clare County Council, Mairead Crobett explained, “the intention was to construct units of accommodation for special needs and elderly under the CAS Scheme. This Scheme has not progressed to date”.
Respond are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the property as they own the house with the Council having a charge on Mountshannon House.
A meeting between the Council and Respond took place in October 2019 to discuss Respond’s proposals “with regard to the future use of the property. Proposals were subsequently received for the development of 10 units of accommodation but further information is required before submitting to the Department. The Council has been in touch with Respond and the receipt of this information is awaited,” Corbett outlined.
Cllr Pat Burke (FG) tabled a motion on the property at the March meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District requesting information on the Council’s interests in it along with queries on its ownership and upkeep responsibilities. He expressed his shock that the purchase was in 2002. “It is a disgrace to think it has been lying idle for nineteen years. I’m not sure how a Housing Agency thought a fine Georgian property like this was suitable”.
There was hypocrisy evident from the Council’s perspective, the Whitegate native felt. “We give out about private individuals who own properties such as Tulla which are derelict, in this case the Council has an interest in the property and it is shameful that it is lying idle”. Future plans for the property must be made clear. “It is shocking to see it lying idle in a tourist area like Mountshannon”.
Answers need to be provided, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) stressed. “By what I’m reading, the building belongs to Respond and Clare County Council is paying Ta loan which is still being paid”. He continued, “The building is gone into disrepair, it has been left idle for more than 19 years, it is becoming a derelict building inside a village where we’re trying to get out dereliction”.
Detail on the amount of the loan raised and how much was being paid on an annual basis was sought by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF). He was critical that plans to develop accommodation there have taken longer than two decades to progress but did recall efforts to offload the property had been made.
Director of Service, Anne Haugh acknowledged it was “a significant legacy issue” which “predates many of us”. An update on a meeting between Respond and the Department of Housing has yet to be furnished to the Council. She did not have figures of the loan to hand at the virtual meeting. “We are conscious of it, it hasn’t been disappeared from our radar, there is a significant time lapse. If there is not a need identified by scheme proposed by Respond, we do need to identify future need and regularise the loan scheme”.
“In my opinion the house was never suitable, why the Council financed the loan is beyond me. This property was clearly a mistake,” Cllr Burke stated. “The Department and Respond mustn’t be talking to each other. This is not good enough, surely something more positive could happen here,” the Leas Cathaoirleach of the Council concluded.