A legal dispute has broken out over the ownership of the iconic Iveagh Market in the heart of Dublin City, which was gifted to the people of Dublin in 1906 by the Guinness family. 

Temple Bar publican Martin Keane purchased an option to develop the iconic Francis Street landmark more than 10 years ago for nearly €2 million but has failed to develop the site despite receiving planning permission on two separate occasions in 2007 and 2012. 

Keane’s failure to develop the site prompted the fourth Earl of Iveagh Edward Guinness to invoke a “reverter clause” in the original deeds, which allows the Guinness family to take possession of the site if it was not being used for its intended purpose as a market. 

Keane took a High Court challenge against the move and also took legal action against Dublin City Council for failing to grant him a third planning permission for the former market. 

Negotiations between Keane, Dublin City Council, and the Guinness family are ongoing over the fate of the iconic landmark, which has lain derelict for more than 20 years after it ceased trading as a market in the late 1990s. 

Keane, who owns the nearby Mother Recaps site, planned to develop a Covent Garden-style market at the Iveagh Market along with hotel and restaurant facilities. 

However, he failed to carry out any development at the site on the two occasions he was granted planning permission, prompting the council to reject a third application for planning permission on the grounds that he no longer had an option to develop the site. 

Keane, Dublin City Council, and AM Guinness Markets have been in mediation over the future of the site since February 2021. 

The three parties have now reportedly agreed to carry out an in-depth survey of the building, with previous inspections estimating that it will cost as much as €23 million to renovate the dilapidated market. 

Edward Guinness and consultant Paul Smithwick recently released a statement claiming that they are “gravely concerned” that Iveagh Market will be damaged beyond repair “unless immediate repairs to the roofing are carried out”. 

Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan also recently told an Oireachtas committee that he wanted to see the market “pulled back from the brink” before it deteriorates any further. 

Smithwick, who is chairperson of the board of AM Guinness Markets, told the Irish Independent that he has “every confidence” in Keane’s ability to restore the building to its former glory. 

Smithwick added that a 112-bedroom hotel forms part of the redevelopment plans and will serve as the “economic driver” of the project, while the Covent Garden-style market will ensure that the site retains a market. 

According to several reports, Keane could be given back possession of the historic site, although RTÉ reports that a major stumbling block in the negotiations is whether he receives ownership of the site before carrying out repairs or after.