Iveagh Markets: Council seeks State help to preserve roof as dispute mediation fails

Edward Guinness welcomes Dublin City Council preservation saying ‘this is a significant step’ and he supports seeking ‘State funding for the the Markets’ return to social purpose’

Dublin City Council (DCC) is seeking State support as it moves to start roof preservation at Dublin’s dilapidated Iveagh Markets, after the conclusion this week, without any resolution, of two years of High Court mediation about its disputed ownership.

The council is currently working on time frames for survey, design, tender and works to the roof, it has confirmed to The Irish Times.

It has directed “the immediate commencement of the process” for works to the roof of the Markets building, a protected structure, “and as far as possible to preserve it so that it is not likely to cause a danger to any person or property”, DCC assistant chief executive Richard Shakespeare told the Lord Mayor and councillors on February 1st.

Three-way mediation, which has taken place since early 2021, between the council, hotelier Martin Keane and Edward Guinness, Lord Iveagh, about ownership and responsibility for the historic Liberties market, has ended without any resolution of the seeming deadlock. By December the mediation comprised direct without-prejudice discussions between the parties in the context of multiple ongoing legal proceedings.


Mr Shakespeare informed councillors “those without prejudice discussions concluded on Monday afternoon, 30 January 2023, without resolution”. Several legal cases between Martin Keane’s companies and both DCC and Guinness will continue in the Commercial Court and the High Court, his memo confirmed to councillors.

He said “given the very high estimated cost of the required works to the roof and the fact that there is no provision in the City Council’s Capital Programme 2023-2025 to cover these costs, the council the city council will seek State funding for the project”.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan, in a Dáil debate last December, pointed out grant schemes in his Department for protecting heritage buildings and historic structures. Replying to a question from TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh, the minister said “rest assured that the Department will do all it can to try to move the process along in a positive way”, to see “if there is a mechanism” to look at “getting a restoration project off the ground for the Iveagh Markets”.

This week represents a break in the stalemate of the long-running dispute about Iveagh Markets, as the condition of the neglected building worsened. Edward Guinness welcomed the council’s preservation move. “This represents a significant step”, he said, adding he will “support the City Council in seeking State funding for the Markets’ return to social purpose, which itself represents a major urban renewal programme for the city of Dublin”.

Iveagh Markets was built by 1906 by brewer Edward Cecil Guinness for the people of Dublin, to be run by (then) Dublin Corporation. In 1997 the Corporation sold a 500-year lease on it to hotelier Martin Keane for redevelopment, including a hotel. After failure to develop it over 20-plus years, despite planning permission, DCC sought to repossess. This led to a dispute over title and ultimately High Court mediation.

Mr Shakespeare informed councillors that several legal proceedings are continuing, including Martin Keane and his companies v Edward Guinness Lord Iveagh and related counterclaim and defence; and Martin Keane’s and his companies v Dublin City Council.

Speaking to The Irish Times in November 2022 Mr Keane said “we have actions pending on the other two people in the mediation. A lot of action. [For] if the mediation doesn’t work. And we’ve also lodged in court some proceedings against” DCC and Guinness.

Andrew O’Connell of Reclaim the Iveagh Markets campaign welcomed the council decision to drive efforts to protect the building, saying “today we take comfort in this small victory in the long battle ahead”. He urged the Minister to get directly involved in assisting DCC to draw down funding. Reclaim the Iveagh Markets is looking for comprehensive and transparent public consultation on the future of the market.

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times