Gardaí are investigating the circumstances of a fire which caused extensive damage to a section of a protected building in Co Clare.
— Tom Hehir (@tomhehir68) June 26, 2022
The blaze at the former Our Lady’s Psychiatric Hospital in Ennis was reported at around 6am on Sunday when emergency services received a number of 999 calls.
Three units of Clare County Fire and Rescue Service from Ennis station responded to the incident at Dulick on the Gort Road, a short distance from the town centre.
On arrival, fire crews found a large section of the building’s entrance area ‘well alight’ with flames bursting through the roof.
Firefighters used a hydraulic platform to tackle the blaze from above and however, after the fire had been brought under control and contained to one section of the facility, crews continued to deal with small pockets of fires for some time afterwards.
In one section of the three-storey building, all three floors collapsed into the basement making the scene particularly hazardous for fire crews.
The circumstances of the blaze are unknown and it wasn’t immediately clear whether there were any persons inside at the time.
Fire crews later carried out a detailed search of the large building but only after officers were happy that it’s safe to do so. Fire service personnel walked through the entire building even parts not affected by fire. No persons were found inside at the time.
It’s understood that people have been known to sleep in the derelict building despite a previous owner constructing security fencing around expansive building.
While Gardaí and Crime Scene Investigation officers were at the scene in the afternoon, a man emerged from the building. Gardaí spoke with the man before he was allowed to continue on his way.
The fire service has responded to as many as five fires at the site since the former HSE psychiatric hospital closed in the early 2000s.
The building, constructed in the 1860s, is a listed protected structure in the Ennis and Environs Development Plan and also forms part of an Architectural Conservation Area.
Ownership of the site has changed hands several times since the building was sold by the former Mid-Western Health Board in 2002. Separate plans to develop the 16 acre site as a hotel and a private hospital never came to fruition.
The site was purchased from Clare County Council in 2005 by a group of businessmen including a hotelier and building contractor. It’s understood to have sold at the time for around €5 million and while planning permission had been granted for a four-star hotel on the site, this did not go ahead.