The Dublin Archdiocese has been accused of striking a "sweetheart deal" with the GAA to sell off 19 acres of prime church land in the north city.
The deal will see the Archdiocese and the GAA in a joint venture sell the site in Drumcondra with a rumoured price tag of €100m and potential for 1,200 apartments. The 19-acre site is part of the old Holy Cross seminary and adjoining lands.
Joe Costello, a former government minister and Labour Party councillor, said yesterday that proposed sale seemed to be "pretty much a sweetheart deal between the GAA and the church that was not known to the community or to local representatives.
"It is the largest portion of land or parcel of land in Dublin in any area that is still left in the ownership of one body. It should simply not be disposed of to the highest bidder."
Mr Costello added: "I would love to see this being out in the open and that the Catholic Archdiocese and the GAA make it quite clear that they will engage with the local communities and not hand over this valuable land to the highest bidder." He said he would also like to see the Archdiocese clarify whether any of the mooted profits from the deal will be offered to the redress scheme set up to compensate former residents of religious-run institutions.
The scheme to offer redress to residents of residential institutions has cost the taxpayer €1.5bn to date. Eighteen religious orders negotiated to pay €128m in 2002 but later offered a further €352.61m. Hundreds of thousands are still owing to the State by the religious orders.
The Archdiocese declined to comment on the sale of land in Drumcondra yesterday.
The site lies between Clonliffe Road and Lower Drumcondra Road.
In a press release issued last October, the Archdiocese of Dublin said it was in "exclusive discussions" with the GAA to sell the former Holy Cross College site and were "co-operating closely" on plans to ensure the lands and buildings "be developed into one of the most significant community projects for the north city in many years, providing housing, jobs and sports facilities."
At the time, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said it was "a priority for the Diocese" to ensure the buildings and lands would be used for the benefit of the local community.
The project represented "a vital opportunity for the Church in Dublin to reimagine its place in the life of the city at a time of enormous change and challenge. The Archbishop said it is a priority for the Diocese to ensure the buildings and lands would be used for the benefit of the local community and a legacy for the city of Dublin.
The Clonliffe property would include social, affordable and private housing, sports facilities for children and young adults as well as a hotel and commercial opportunities providing employment for people living in the area.
"The GAA and the Diocese are committed to providing increased access for the public to landscaped greenways and park facilities," the statement said.
It continued: "It is planned to relocate the Diocesan support services of around 80 people to a smaller, purpose built modern pastoral centre with meeting rooms, educational facilities, office space and oratory. The former Mater Dei building, which the Diocese made available to Dublin City Council to become a Family Hub for homeless families and which is run by Crosscare, will not be affected.
"Subject to planning permissions, it is envisaged the Clonliffe property would include social, affordable and private housing, sports facilities for children and young adults as well as a hotel and commercial opportunities providing employment for people living in the area."