Thursday 19 April 2018

DCU picked as preferred bidder for All Hallows College

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy with Fr Joseph Leonard in Dublin
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy with Fr Joseph Leonard in Dublin
Collage of letters between Fr Joseph Leonard and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy
All Hallows College in Drumcondra
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

DUBLIN City University has been chosen as the preferred bidder for the historic All Hallows College.

The 170-year-old Catholic institution was placed on the market last year after management announced it would need a major cash injection to remain in operation.

The decision followed a controversy over its unsuccessful attempt to raise funds by selling letters written by the late US First Lady Jackie Kennedy to an Irish priest.

The college, located on a 16-acre campus on Dublin's northside, had been initially given a price tag of €9.5m.

However, the Irish Independent understands the deal on the table could be worth substantially more than that.

DCU was among 10 interested parties to make provisional offers to the college.

These were whittled down to a shortlist from which DCU was selected late last month, according to informed sources.

Staff were briefed in recent days that a preferred bidder had been identified. However, the identity of the bidder was not disclosed to them.

The college, which offers degrees in the humanities and social sciences, is now set to enter further discussions with DCU before a final deal can be agreed.

If those discussions go well, it is thought a formal announcement could be made next month.

DCU has had a close association with All Hallows in recent years and has been accrediting its degrees since 2008.

It is understood that any agreement would not be purely based on cash and that a sizeable amount would relate to the ongoing provision of services to students studying at All Hallows.

All Hallows is currently winding down its operations and did not take in any new students this year.

The last of its current crop of students are due to finish their courses in August 2017.

DCU declined to comment when contacted last night.

A spokeswoman for All Hallows said a preferred bidder had been identified, but declined to confirm who it was, saying the process was confidential.

She said that whatever the outcome, the college was committed to its students being able to complete their courses.

"We are quite clear the college itself is in wind-down. The priority is to help the students to complete their studies in whatever way that can be done - whether that can be facilitated here on campus or at another location," she said.

The spokeswoman said All Hallows had also expressed an interest in the mission of the college being continued in some manner and this would form part of the discussions.

"These would be the principals of service to the community, ethical leadership and social justice. They would have been the cornerstones of our teaching and our courses," she said.

Last year, the proposed auction by the college of letters from Jackie Kennedy to an Irish priest was blocked.

Mrs Kennedy corresponded with Fr Joe Leonard for a period of 15 years after she met him on a visit to Ireland.

He had lived in the college until his death in 1964 and the letters had remained there until last year.

The 33 letters had been expected to make anywhere between €800,000 and €3m for the college.

They were said to have huge historical significance and dealt with key moments in Mrs Kennedy's life, including her engagement and her husband's assassination.

However, the auction was abandoned after the Vincentian Fathers order, of which Fr Leonard was a member, dramatically asserted ownership over the letters. This happened after Fr Leonard's will was found in college archives, proving the letters did not belong to the college but to the order.

The order later announced it had given the letters to the Kennedy family.

The Vincentian Fathers said the decision was taken having "regard to the respect due to what is correspondence of a private nature".

The college said that even if the letters had been sold, the money would not have been enough to secure its future.

Its president, Fr Patrick McDevitt, estimated it needed a short-term cash injection of €10m and longer-term funding of €25m to keep operating.

Irish Independent

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