State bodies told to redouble efforts to identify properties for housing use

Disused harbour masters’ cottages, Garda station ‘marriage quarters’ and homes limited to Irish speakers among unsatisfactory results of trawl of available housing stock

State bodies asked to find properties for housing were told to go back to the drawing board after offering disused harbour masters’ cottages and “marriage quarters” in Garda stations, and making stipulations that some homes could only be built for Irish speakers.

In a push to combat vacancy and maximise the use of existing stock, the Department of Housing asked every department and agencies operating under them to find properties that could be used for housing last December.

However, while some sent more substantial lists of properties, many departments or State bodies told the Department of Housing they had nothing to offer them, or only made limited offers, or said their property holdings weren’t suitable for housing.

Not habitable

The Department of Agriculture offered just two former harbour master houses which were in a poor state of repair in Donegal and Galway. Among a list of properties suggested by the Department of Justice were scores of “marriage quarters” − former residential buildings linked to Garda stations, most of which were not habitable or risked not being usable due to security concerns. Many of these buildings are over 50 years old and, the Office of Public Works said in a statement, “would require significant investment to comply with current regulations for residential use”. They have also been suggested for consideration as part of the humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine.


Other properties suggested by departments lacked infrastructure, such as roads which did not yet exist.

Some agencies indicated a willingness to make lands or existing housing projects available under housing for all, but stipulated that conditions relating to their wider mission would be attached. Údarás na Gaeltachta flagged land parcels in the Waterford and Galway Gaeltachts that were being developed for housing. However, the Gaeltacht development body said its property development plans were focused on challenges faced by Gaeltacht communities and which “Irish-speaking prospective residents of the Gaeltacht have in sourcing appropriate and affordable housing”.

As such, it said there would be a requirement that 100 per cent of the housing developed on its property be subject to an “Irish-language condition” – meaning they would be subject to a planning condition that would require the purchasers to be Irish speakers.

After the exercise earlier this year, Ministers were told at a Cabinet meeting to redouble their efforts and encourage their departments to find more tracts of land and properties for residential development as the initial trawl had “not identified a significant number of buildings/properties for this purpose”. The departments of health, education and justice have been identified as holding large portfolios, or managing them on behalf of the Office of Public Works.

The Department of Education offered two properties, saying it “is highly unlikely that any of its current property holdings are suitable for residential use”. The Department of Health pointed to ongoing engagement between the Land Development Agency and the Health Service Executive, but added that, following another review, the HSE reported “no further properties available for housing have been identified at this stage”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times