Campaign to save Markievicz Pool from Metrolink

By Peter McNamara

On Thursday June 16th members of the “Save Markievicz Pool” campaign group convened a public meeting at St Andrews Resource Centre, on Pearse Street. At issue was the National Transport Authority’s (NTA) proposal to demolish the newly-refurbished Markievicz Pool and Gym complex on Luke Street, the attached College Gate apartments, and eight townhouses, to build a Metrolink Station in their place.

Given the extensive impact of the NTA proposals, it’s not surprising that the June 16th meeting was well attended. 

John Dean, a key campaign organiser, opened proceedings. According to him the reason for the meeting was threefold: to outline what’s been going on with the Metrolink plans; to discuss how the community campaign has been going; and to lay out what is needed to be done next to save the threatened buildings. 

Seán de Burca, another affected local, took the stage to highlight the concerns of local residents amid questionable official behaviour. Finally, College Gate owner-occupier Nicola Brait scrutinised the NTA’s proposals in detail, and offered alternatives. 

Campaigners at a demonstration outside College Gate at the beginning of the year

Lack of Official Communication 

Metrolink, announced in March 2018, is a plan to run an underground train from Dublin Airport to Sandyford in the south of the city. The project is being conducted by a number of official bodies. The National Transport Authority is the administrative wing of the plan, with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) acting as the engineering wing of operations.

As part of the Metrolink Plan, a station is to be built in the Luke Street area to connect with the DART station at Tara Street, and thereby link these transport routes. 

With their thorough and professional presentation, the campaigners made a robust case for reconsidering the NTA’s choice of locating a Metrolink Station at Luke Street. Instead of knocking the housing and the leisure centre, they argued either for a station to be built instead on the site of nearby Hawkins House, or for the construction at Luke Street to be done underground, to preserve the buildings that currently stand at street level. 

While giving an overview of the situation, De Burca was quick to emphasise that although the campaigners were against the NTA plans, they were strongly in favour of the project in general. 

“We need a Metrolink,” De Burca told the crowd, “but not at the expense of the local community.” Given the current housing crisis, and the fact that the NTA intends to pull down 70 high-quality city centre apartments, and eight townhouses with elderly residents, he went on to describe the official plans as “shameful and incomprehensible.” 

To what extent Dublin City Council is involved remains unclear. Officially, they have no role. However, local residents and campaign organisers claim to have seen Council staff taking an active part in preparations. According to campaign organisers, this lack of clarity is indicative of the careless approach being taken by the NTA, the TII, and DCC, when it comes to the planning and execution of the Metrolink project, and communication with residents. 

Many of the residents who will be evicted as result of these proposals received no direct communication or information about the scheme from the NTA. At the public meeting, one woman spoke about how she chanced upon an article in a newspaper, and thereby discovered that her home was to be demolished. Another affected resident only learned of the plans when he queried a City Council employee, who was drilling in the area. 

Campaigners also claim that the Public Consultation was very poorly advertised. De Burca had invited officials to attend the public meeting, but received refusals all around. “That’s not acceptable,” he said. “We live here. We are stakeholders in this project. They should appear in public and properly engage.”

Hawkins House or an All-underground Build 

Nicola Brait, an owner-occupier at College Gate, gave a more detailed analysis of the official plans, and offered the campaigner’s alternatives. 

One of the NTA’s key reasons for building a Metro Station on Luke Street is its proximity to the existing DART station at Tara Street. The Hawkins House site is further from the DART station than the Luke Street location – it’s 150m from Tara Street. The NTA has deemed this distance to be too great for passengers making Metrolink and DART connections.

However, each of the proposed Metrolink Stations for Dublin Airport are roughly 230m and 250m from the airport terminals. In that light, argued Brait, 150m shouldn’t be seen as an unacceptable distance to walk from one train connection to another, and should make Hawkins House a perfectly acceptable site.

What’s more, Brait suggested building an underground pedestrian tunnel to connect the two stations. Such a tunnel has proved an effective solution in Rotterdam. As part of his slideshow presentation, he showed an impressive rendering of an underground pedestrian tunnel, complete with shops, cafés, and travellators. 

The Hawkins House alternative would also reduce the journey time on the Metrolink, as a station at that site would create a gentler curve along the Metrolink line, when compared with one on Luke Street. Also, this more straightforward route would require 125m less tunnelling. 

Brait went on to outline the possibilities and advantages of completing most of the proposed build at Luke Street underground. Instead of knocking the Markievicz Pool and Gym, and the apartments and townhouses, a station could be built underground – such a built had been completed successfully in Bilbao. 

While a viable option, he noted that this approach poses greater risks for construction workers, and emphasised that of the two proposals, the Save Markievicz Pool campaign was primarily in favour of relocating the Metrolink station to Hawkins House. 

A Fight for Inner City Communities

At the public meeting on June 16th, one thing was abundantly clear: users of the Markievicz Pool and Gym treasure having such a centre in their locality. De Burca described it as a place “for health, connection, and social experiences.”

“I use the pool and the gym,” he said. “I’ve been living on Pearse Street for the last four years, renting here. It’s not a private enterprise. It’s a public celebration. It’s not just about health and fitness, it’s a real social centre. Those kinds of opportunities are quite limited.” 

During the questions and comments part of the meeting, another attendee said that the leisure centre “saved my life.” “The staff,” he added, “are like a family in there. They’re like social workers. They’re wonderful.” His words won a round of applause.

An elderly woman living in one of the targeted townhouses said, “I love my house, I love my little garden. They’re talking about replacing the housing, but when? And where will be it? Out in the middle of nowhere?”

Her concerns have validity. Pledges have been made to compensate renters and owners in the affected apartments and townhouses, but there is nothing set in stone. And, given the pressure for space in Dublin city centre, and the low supply of housing, it would be challenging to provide adequate compensatory accommodation – and that’s assuming the Metrolink planners made a genuine effort to do so. 

In the absence of a binding agreement such compensation might not come at all. The townhouses were built only 16 years ago. And, like the College Gate apartments, they are of a high quality, and would be difficult to match. 

Séan deBurca, when giving his concluding remarks in his speech, speculated on the possible ulterior motives of the NTA, the TII, and Dublin City Council, given their persistent lack of engagement, and the un-advertised public consultation. He wondered if there was a push to knock the housing and the leisure centre, so as to end up with not only the Metrolink station, but also some additional empty sites in that valuable area of Dublin 2. He speculated – emphasising it was only a hunch, and not founded in evidence – that such valuable vacant sites might be used for additional office blocks or hotels.

Getting Involved 

If the issues raised here concern you and you’d like to get involved, there are a number of things you can do to help the Save Markievicz Pool campaign. If you have experience or qualifications in the construction industry that might be most useful of all: what campaigners really need is an advising engineer. 

Money is also an issue. The Freedom of Information requests campaigners have to see official plans/activity which costs €30 at a time. Added to this is the cost of posters and leaflets, which are used to inform those concerned and the general public about the situation on Luke Street. Donations can be made via, which is linked from their Facebook page. 

Likewise, the campaigners welcome anyone who might be able to spare some time now and then, to distribute flyers and posters. Sending letters and emails to the media, and to local councillors and TDs is another way to influence the situation. You might simply add your name to the online petition at

According to campaigners, the plans are already over-budget, and appear to be rushed and sloppy. They insist that with the right public pressure, they can be unraveled. 

Campaigns to revise the Metrolink plans have been effective in other parts of the city. When disruptive building was announced near the Charlemont Luas stop in Ranelagh, locals successfully had the Metrolink plans changed. While this success may be related to the affluence of this area, it nonetheless shows that the NTA can be made to reconsider.

Changes were also forced when Na Fianna GAA in Glasnevin realised its pitches were set to be affected by the Metrolink construction. In this instance, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar personally stepped in to reverse the NTA’s decision. It’s perhaps noteworthy that the Minister for Finance Pascal Donoghue is TD for Glasnevin.

Although the Save Markievicz Pool campaigners don’t have the same clout as those in Ranelagh or Glasnevin, they are not deterred. De Burca exhorted the crowd at the public meeting to “believe in your rights, be confident.” “It’s a bad plan,” he said, “it can be changed, it’s been done so before. Spread the word, stay connected, and keep each other informed.”

If you’d like to get involved with the campaign, or to get more information about it, contact Check in on the ‘Save Markievicz Pool’ Facebook page, to donate to the campaign and connect with those involved.