Saturday 25 February 2017

Square at centre of bitter dispute to go under the hammer

Grainne Cunningham

A VICTORIAN square which shot to notoriety when businessman Noel O'Gara purchased it for about €10,000 will go under the hammer at auction next month with a reserve of €140,000.

Neither Dublin City Council nor local residents would say whether they will be among the bidders at the Allsops auction on December 4.

Dartmouth Square in Ranelagh, Dublin 6, was the subject of a bitter stand-off between Mr O'Gara and Dublin City Council from 2005 when he bought the square for around €10,000 from PJ Darley, whose ancestors built it in the 1880s. Until Mr O'Gara bought it, the park was a public amenity and enjoyed by local residents.

Mr Darley had arranged a sale to Dublin City Council but was not paid and sold it to Mr O'Gara.

The businessman outraged residents when he proposed putting a car park on the land and later suggested building a creche there.

Mr O'Gara drew controversy after he attempted to establish a series of business ventures on the green space including a tile showroom.

In February 2006, Dublin City Council initiated a compulsory purchase order (CPO) on Dartmouth Square, in an effort to bring the park back into public ownership as a public open space, but later abandoned the effort.

In 2008, the square was designated an architectural conservation area, limiting the type of development that can take place. Then one year later, the park was eventually reopened to the local community.

Three years ago, in 2009, Dublin City Council won a court application to wind up Mr O'Gara's company, Marble and Granite Tiles, and a liquidator was appointed.

The two-acre site, which is being sold by liquidator Tom Murray of Friel Stafford Corporate Recovery, is among 109 properties on offer at the auction.

A spokesman for Dublin City Council yesterday refused to say whether the local authority would be among the bidders on auction day.

Chairperson of the Upper Leeson Street Resident Association Sue Scott said that a meeting was to be held in the coming days and Dartmouth Square would be one of the items on the agenda.

A long-term resident of the square, Kevin Nowlam, said he was "not pessimistic" about the outcome of the auction but declined to comment further.

Mr O'Gara confirmed that he would attend the auction but did not say whether he would consider repurchasing the site.

Mr O'Gara accused the council of having rendered his land "worthless or nearly worthless" and suggested that anyone could now come forward and buy the park.

Irish Independent

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