Court History (briefly)
The court, built in 1885 by Sir Edward Guinness, was bequeathed to the Irish State in 1939 by his grandson Rupert, together with Iveagh House and Gardens. The court, venue for the 1890 World Championship, has been out of play since then, having been used as a gymnasium, and, latterly, as a laboratory and offices.
Planning Permission expires
In 1998 Dublin City Council granted planning permission to the Office of Public Works (the OPW, the body with responsibility for the maintenance of State buildings) for the conversion of the court for use as a recital hall by the adjacent National Concert Hall. The IRTA challenged this grant of planning permission at the Planning Appeals Board and in the High Court in 1999/2000. Although these appeals were unsuccessful (on essentially technical grounds) the OPW did not proceed with the conversion of the court, and the planning permission expired on 7th June 2004. The status of the court thus remains as it has been since 1939, in that University College Dublin (UCD) holds it under a lease from the OPW and uses some two-thirds of the building as a civil engineering laboratory. The remaining third is occupied by the archaeology section of the OPW, which has offices at the hazard end.
NCH gets approval for UCD buyout
The 2005 budget contained the news that the NCH (and IRTA!) had long awaited. €50 million was allocated for the acquisition of UCD's occupancy of the main building at Earlsfort Terrace. This will allow the re-opening of the original 1865 small recital hall (ever the logical solution!) and the development of a 2,000 seat auditorium overlooking the Gardens. The tennis court building forms no part of the plans.
UCD to vacate court
After 65 years of occupancy, UCD will vacate the court building towards the end of 2007 when the last of the university facilities at the Earlsfort Terrace site will be moved to join the rest of the university at its suburban campus. It is believed that the OPW will also vacate the court before that date. Clearly, this will be the first major change in the status of the court since Lord Iveagh's bequest, and represents an opportunity finally to return the court to its intended use.
The IRTA has now written to the key players at Government level, again asking that the right thing be done: the restoration of the court to the condition in which it was received at the time of the bequest, and the facilitation of its re-opening for play in the context of the huge resurgence in real tennis around the world.
Congratulations to Rob Fahey
We in Ireland claim some 'bragging rights' to the World Champion, Rob Fahey, who successfully defended his title in the last week of April (see www.irtpa.com). In 1855 Rob's forefather James emigrated to Australia from Loughrea, Co. Galway — the same county from which the beautiful black limestone of the Dublin court was specially sourced.
We saved the Dublin court — Go n-éiridh linn as seo amach; may we succeed hereon.
— Ted Neville