The rise and fall of the Iveagh Markets

For over 80 years, the Iveagh Markets on Francis Street served as a public place for the community in the heart of the Liberties. What used to be a flourishing market is now a run-down building suffering from dilapidation. The doors have been closed since the early 1990s, leaving the building empty and derelict.  

As a present from the Guinness family to the community, the markets opened in 1906 as a grand, bright space for former street traders. Back then, the Dublin Corporation (now Dublin City Council) was responsible for running and maintaining the markets.  

A note left by Lord Iveagh to the community. Image/ Luna Laufer

When the site became run-down over the years, the city decided to hand it over to a private developer to restore and renovate the building in the 1990s. Temple Bar hotelier Martin Keane secured the lease and has been responsible for the state of the Iveagh Markets ever since.  

Dublin City Council told The Liberty that “the responsibility to redevelop the Iveagh Market rested with a third party who failed to deliver over a prolonged period”.  

Keane gained two separate planning permissions to develop the building, granted in 2007 and 2012. After these developments failed to materialise and the dereliction reached dangerous levels, the current Lord Iveagh, Edward Guinness, stepped in, invoking a clause from the original contract.

According to Iveagh, this “reversionary clause” allows the Guinness family to legally take possession of the site if it is not serving its intended purpose. As the building has been derelict for well over 20 years, Iveagh claimed to repossess the property in December 2020.  

The Iveagh Markets have been subject to an ongoing legal battle involving Lord Iveagh, Martin Keane, and the Dublin City Council. Legal proceedings have been going on for more than two years with no settlement in sight.  

As “the relevant parties are currently locked in a confidential mediation process”, Dublin City Council could not provide any more information on the current status of the proceedings and the future of the Iveagh Markets. 

However, it is understood that lawyers for the three parties are discussing a plan that would see Martin Keane regain control of the building with finance confirmed and milestones for redevelopment agreed.

The Reclaim the Iveagh Markets Campaign has criticised the omission of community representatives the decision-making process. The campaign started in 2018 and aims to bring back the Iveagh Markets to public use.  

Activist Fergal Butler, one of the campaign co-founders, says the markets were more than a commercial site – they gave local people a sense of community and an “unofficial social service”. 

The campaign is asking for public consultation as the community have not had a say in the mediation process so far and is seeking public ownership of the building in the future.

This means, basically, for Dublin City Council to regain power over the markets. Moreover, the campaign wants the Iveagh Markets declared a national monument and the site to be protected. 

Their undertaking is well-supported by the community with over 2000 followers on Facebook and almost 400 followers on Twitter.


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