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Ireland's 'Little Britain': Sale agreed on ex-British Legion hall in Killester

The former British Legion hall in Killester, County Dublin Image copyright O'Farrell Cleere Auctioneers Limited
Image caption The former British Legion hall in Killester was built in a Dublin suburb that became known as Little Britain, due to the number of Irish-born British soldiers who were housed in the area after World War One

One of the last British Legion halls in the Republic of Ireland has been agreed for sale, despite a public campaign to turn it into a World War I memorial.

The hall in Killester, north Dublin, was built in a suburb of the city that became known as Little Britain.

More than 200 houses were built in Killester between 1918 and 1922 for Irish ex-servicemen who fought for Britain in WWI.

Neither the buyer's identity nor their plans for the hall have been released.

However, planning permission currently exists to refurbish the hall and construct a crèche in an adjoining building.

'Symbol of commemoration'

The former British Legion hall was built a few years after the post-war housing estate and was used as a community facility in Killester.

Since then, the building has undergone several changes of ownership and changes of use, and has not had any connection with the British Legion for some considerable time.

For the last number of years, it has been in private ownership and has fallen into a very poor state of repair.

It was recently put on the open market, with an initial asking prices of 50,000 euros (£41,000).

However, a group of local people launched a campaign to preserve the building as a "symbol of commemoration and reconciliation in honour of Irishmen who served and lost their lives during WWI".

The Killester War Memorial Campaign lobbied the Irish government to buy the hall and retain it as a "cultural and historical site".

They gained support from politicians, including the Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisin Quinn.

Private bidders

The government declined, saying it was already commemorating Irish participation in WWI by funding other projects in its decade of centenaries programme.

The government's programme commemorates a turbulent decade in Irish history, from 1912 to 1922, including the outbreak of the war in 1914, the 1916 Easter Rising rebellion, the Irish War of Independence and partition.

However, the campaign group's website says: "Our decade of commemorations demands that we retain and preserve historic buildings within local communities that have a unique link with our World War I heritage."

The sale of the hall, at Middle Third Terrace, Killester, is being handled by O'Farrell Cleere Auctioneers in north Dublin.

In February, a spokeswoman for the company said at least four private individuals had placed bids to buy the building.

One of the prospective buyers discussed an idea of turning the hall into a "man cave".

Protective order

On Wednesday, the spokeswoman said she could not confirm the final selling price because it was a private contract.

However, the campaigners believe the site was agreed for sale late last month at more than twice the original asking price.

Kevin Madden from the Killester War Memorial Campaign said one of the unsuccessful bidders was a member of their organisation, who would have allowed them to place a permanent WWI memorial on the site.

Mr Madden said the last bid he had been informed about had exceeded 110,000 euros (£90,000).

He added that the campaigners have been unable to find out who was selling the building or who had agreed to buy it.

On Sunday 30 March, the group held their own commemoration ceremony at the building, and placed 50 crosses on the piece of land outside the hall.

Planning restrictions

Mr Madden said they also tried and failed to get Dublin City Council to place a protective order on the building.

He said he believed the motion failed because the site's existing planning permission is valid for the next two years, and councillors were concerned they could be held liable for placing restrictions on the building.

The estate agent said the planning restrictions on the 0.57 acre site include a condition that the hall should have a future community use.

Planning permission has already been granted for a refurbishment of the existing hall and the construction of a 188 sq m crèche in an adjoining single storey building.

The new owner will also been required to cede 341sq m of the site to Dublin County Council and create 10 car parking spaces.

There is no agreement on the total number of Irish-born soldiers who served in the British Army and Navy during WWI.

The Irish government has said: "There appears to be a consensus that at least 35,000 died, though the figure on the National War Memorial is 49,400."

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