Council Misses Out on Central Government Grants to Repair Kilmainham Mills

Dublin City Council asked for €200,000 from central government to restore and protect the old buildings that make up Kilmainham Mills.

But they didn’t get the money, South Central Area Manager Bruce Phillips told councillors last week.

“It is unfortunate and regrettable that we weren’t able to secure any funds,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Heritage said it had gotten a “large number of applications for built heritage grants and competition for grants is very intense”.

It looks as if the council is going to press ahead with restoration works using money from its own coffers – while some councillors and local residents say they’re watching to make sure work isn’t too slow.

Doing It Up

Dublin City Council took control of the site of Kilmainham Mills, which sits alongside the Camac River, last December.

It appointed a steering group to look after getting the mills back into shape, after years of dereliction.

Those on the steering group aren’t quite sure yet what to do with it. But the first thing on its agenda is keeping it from deteriorating further.

To that end, the council applied for €200,000 through the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s Historic Structures Fund, to do “restoration and protection works”, said Phillips, at a meeting last Wednesday of the council’s South Central Area Committee.

“It is unfortunate and regrettable that we weren’t able to secure any funds,” he said. “We weren’t given a reason.”

Phillips said he thinks “the funding stream was over-subscribed” but it’s “hard to know the criteria and the rationale”.

A department spokesperson said it got 129 applications under the Historic Structures Fund, and it approved 68 of them.

Of those applications, 23 of them were for the second stream – the one for big projects with a clear community or public benefit.

“Due to limited funding, and the larger amounts involved, only a small number of projects could be funded under this stream,” they said.

The department approved five Dublin City Council projects for funding. Four were for amounts ranging from €15,000 to €50,000; the fifth was for €200,000 for St Patrick’s Cathedral.

At the meeting, Councillor Tina MacVeigh, of People Before Profit, says she was “surprised” the application for funds for Kilmainham Mills didn’t go through.

“I think we need to go back to the Department of Heritage and ask for more concrete answers,” MacVeigh says.

“It’s a real shame to me. It’s an iconic building in urgent need, at the very least, of making it safe and secure so we don’t lose it,” she said.

Pushing Ahead

In a report, Executive Manager Mary Taylor listed works that are essential to the Mills’ integrity – an asbestos survey, a management plan for invasive Japanese knotweed, propping up the floors, fixing the roof.

At the meeting, Phillips said the council is looking to use its own internal funds instead.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council Press Office didn’t say what pot of money this funding will be taken from. “Funding is from the council’s own resources,” they said.

The council seems committed to doing what it can, says MacVeigh. “I think that, in the immediate term, the council seem to have the resources they need to at least get going with some of the more critical interventions for the building.”

She plans on looking into the impact of the refusal of funding on the building itself, she says. “If the impact threatens the building, we need to go back to the Department of Heritage and say, ‘This isn’t acceptable.’”

The mill deteriorated substantially while it was controlled by NAMA and receivers, said a spokesperson for the Save Kilmainham Mill Group.

“Ironically, the department decision will probably slow down the essential repair work, which means that more remedial work will have to be done, further increasing the overall cost of the project,” she said.

The funding rejection was “disappointing” and “short-sighted of the department”, she said. But the group is confident that the council will crack on with essential repairs to the mill, she said.

The steering committee, which is drawing up new proposals for the site, went to look at other industrial-heritage-related buildings around the city this month, to scout for ideas.

At a meeting last month, project manager Darragh Cunningham said the steering group plans to look for significant investment from the government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund.

Taylor said a communications plan will launch in May, and “a broader spectrum of consultation around usages of the Mill with stakeholders will commence in May/June”.

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Erin McGuire: Erin McGuire is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at erin@dublininquirer.com.

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