HSE controls 183 vacant properties, some empty more than a decade, Seanad hears

Minister says HSE recently ‘very co-operative’ with Department of Integration in making ‘small number of properties available’

The HSE has 183 vacant properties under its control, of which 90 are in “various stages of disposal”, according to Minister of State Joe O’Brien.

He confirmed the 183 figure following speculation that the State health agency had up to 400 buildings in its possession, which are overseen by HSE Capital and Estates.

Mr O’Brien said 32 of the properties are “under review and are being considered for retention and reuse by health care services or disposal”. A further 61 of the properties “are retained assets, which means that the properties are vacant and have been retained for varying reasons related to the provision of health services”, he said.

“Recently, the HSE has been very co-operative with the Department of Children and Integration in making a small number of properties available to us to help us with accommodation issues, but that is notwithstanding the large number, 183, that remain vacant,” the Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities told the Seanad.


He was responding to Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne, who had said he had “no confidence in the HSE Estates. because there is no evidence of any strategy” to address the issue of vacant buildings.

Describing the HSE as “one of the biggest owners of derelict and abandoned buildings right around the country”, he said some buildings required very little work to put them back in public use.

Raising the issue in the Upper House, Senator Byrne highlighted the case of the health centre in Camolin, Co Wexford, which closed in 2014, and said that “for 10 years, the HSE has left that building abandoned”.

In 2018, the HSE finally admitted it was going to offer it to other agencies but nothing was done, he said.

In 2022, he was told “it was potentially going to be used to house Ukrainian families”.

In November 2023, the HSE said it would act “as a matter of priority”.

There has been some remedial work carried out at the building but there is still nobody using it, he said.

Mr O’Brien outlined the process involved when a HSE property has been vacated. He said the executive first had to establish if it was “surplus to health requirements”.

Other HSE services are contacted to establish their interest and if the building is no longer required, properties are first offered to the Land Development Agency (LDA) and then to other State agencies.

“Finally, if there is no interest expressed by other State entities, the property is placed on the open market,” the Green Party TD said.

On the centre in Camolin, he said the HSE intends to dispose of the property and Wexford County Council has expressed an interest “and is actively seeking funding to bring this property back into use, with a decision expected in quarter two of this year”.

If the council decides not to acquire the former health centre, the HSE will proceed to dispose of it on the open market, the Seanad was told.

But Senator Byrne said it was unacceptable that 183 derelict properties remained under the control of a State agency. He said that “for 10 years, we have been hearing these excuses”.

The Camolin property was vacant for a decade and the situation “is just not acceptable”. The last time he raised the case in the Seanad, he was told the county council was not interested in the property.

“Now, we are told it is. I really question how the Minister of State can have confidence in HSE Estates given that it continues to leave vacant so many properties throughout the country and is not treating this issue with urgency when there is such demand for property for so many services.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times