Since 2019, Margaret Lowndes has run a group for parents of children with autism to meet up and support each other.
The D12 ASD Parent Support Group hosts messy play dates for around 12 to 15 kids who like sensory play, with bubbles and water splashing around. It also holds support circles for parents to chat about their needs, she says.
But as there’s no community centre in Crumlin, she says, they have to borrow premises from other groups.
“It would be ideal to be able to have our own, you know, have our own little part of the area, a place to call home,” says Lowndes.
One space she hadn’t yet looked at is 146 Sundrive Road.
In a strip of shops between a Centra and Fish Bar takeaway, it is a council-owned building that for almost 90 years has been leased out for just €25.40 a year. “The lease was granted for community use,” said a council spokesperson.
Yet some locals involved in community groups aren’t sure if the building is available, or who to ask to use it. In the past, it’s also shown a sign for a solicitors office.
The building is largely unused, said Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne in a query earlier this month to the council area manager. “There are now local community groups who are seeking a base but do not have access to this building.”
What’s It Used For?
In 1934, the council granted a long lease of the building to the trustees of the Lower Crumlin Community and Development Association, said a council spokesperson on Monday.
“The lease was for a term of 150 years and has in excess of fifty years to run,” said the spokesperson.
Ed Penrose says he is the “last surviving member” of the Lower Crumlin Community and Development Association. “It’s dying down now. We don’t have any members, but we have the building.”
The association’s current function is to manage the building, he said on the phone on Tuesday. “I’d be the one that’s kept it going for the last 30 years. There’s three of us on the committee.”
He wouldn’t say who else is on the committee with him.
The Lower Crumlin Community and Development Association has always been a local community organisation, he said. “They had years ago an information centre downstairs.”
These days, two groups regularly use the building, he said. “In the back garden of it, we have the Crumlin Men’s Shed,” and, “A community employment scheme use it as an office.”
“We had groups downstairs, which are gone now, community employment. The room upstairs is available to community groups,” he said.
A Google Maps image from May 2014 shows a sign on the building for Crossan Hanratty & Co Solicitors. By April 2017, the sign had been taken down, show Google Maps images. The building was later repainted.
Penrose said he didn’t want to say on the record why the building was rented to Crossan Hanratty & Co Solicitors.
A Dublin City Council spokesperson said that it wasn’t aware the premises had been used as a solicitors office in 2014.
A Dublin City Council official said in response to Dunne’s query that the property management section and the Crumlin area manager are currently investigating the usage of the building.
The rent is €25.40 a year, they said, translating the £20 that was agreed in the 1934 lease. “While the account is not fully up to date, rent is being paid on the premises.”
They said if the building isn’t being used for community purposes, then it’s likely that the council will undertake legal proceedings to retake possession of it.
How do they monitor buildings uses in general? Said the council spokesperson: “The use of City Council premises for community is managed through the Property Management Department with input of from the relevant Local Area Office.”
Who Wants Space?
In Crumlin, it isn’t just Lowndes’ group looking for community space.
Crumlin Community Clean-Up needs a permanent premises, says Trevor Clowry, its chairperson.
The environmental group has grown to over 150 members since its birth in 2020, he says. It has subgroups for cycling, arts, history and crafts.
Like the D12 ASD Parent Support Group, Crumlin Community Clean-Up depends on other local groups with their own premises letting them use these for meetings during weekends or evenings. But it’s not ideal, says Clowry.
Lowndes says her group of parents and kids will sometimes use the Hope Centre on Armagh Road or the Brú Youth Service on St Agnes Road.
“But you know, that’s their own base, and we really do need our own place,” she says.
Clowry says his expanding group is getting harder to manage. “You’re looking to store stuff, you’re looking maybe to have ad-hoc meetings.”
“Our last meeting in December we were out in the backyard at eight o’clock on a winter’s night with a fire, woolly hats and scarves, so like, that’s not ideal in any way,” he says.
“There’s just no place in Crumlin, no community centre,” says Clowry. “Whereas other, I suppose, other areas would have them.”
Lowndes would like a fairly big place that would fit all their activities. “Families would know where we are, you know, and know where to meet us if need be.”
Sharing with other groups would be great too, she says. “Because you know, that’s what community spirit is, it’s building that network between different groups for the children in the area.”
“Especially for our children, that’s what we want, to build an autism-friendly community,” she says. “Working with the other groups in the area will build that as well.”
[UPDATE: This article was updated at 9.15am on 19 January 2022 to include responses from Dublin City Council.]