The Green Party today called on incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his new Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to review constitutional protections afforded to lands belonging to religious congregations, following controversies with the National Maternity Hospital and the decision of religious orders to sell lands, currently used by schools, for residential development.
Speaking today, Green Party Deputy Leader and TD for Dublin Rathdown, Catherine Martin TD said: “The recent announcement of the sales of land at both Our Lady's Grove, Goatstown, and Clonkeen College, Blackrock, by their respective congregations has brought to the fore the issue of educational planning in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. These schools are being left with little or no green spaces. As religious congregations wind down, and start disposing of their assets, land adjacent to schools, which is currently used by those schools, or would be ideal for future use for educational purposes, risks being sold off for commercial development.
“93 out of 105 schools in the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council area have lands attached to them zoned as ‘residential’. Now, not all of these are owned by religious institutions, but many are. Zoning these as ‘institutional’ has its own legal issues, but rezoning or attaching a Compulsory Purchase Order to lands owned by religious orders is more difficult again, due to special constitutional protections. The Government needs to review these protections, and develop a long term plan to meet the educational needs of growing communities.”
Green Party Councillor for Dundrum on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Karen Furlong, said: “In this constituency over the past few years significant tranches of school lands have been sold for housing in Milltown, Stillorgan, Goatstown and Churchtown. We know there is a shortage of schools in the area, which has a growing population, yet we are allowing the sale of lands like this without thinking of the consequences. I’m pleased that DLR County Council have passed a motion, which I co-signed, seeking a feasibility study on rezoning these lands, but the Government must consider the options available to them, including constitutional amendments, which will allow them to put the educational needs of children first, and avoid a schools crisis in the coming years.”