The Freemasons, a fraternal organization, has been instructed to make their historic hall in Cork city center available to various groups for 20 hours each month. This requirement is part of a proposed €1 agreement for the acquisition of a portion of a public park. The official statutory disposal notice for a 53.6 square meter piece of Bishop Lucey Park, owned by the public, to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster Freemasons, includes this condition.
The decision follows a vote by councilors in May 2022, which approved a significant contravention of the city development plan concerning the land area behind the Masonic Hall at 27 Tuckey Street. This vote essentially granted the Freemasons planning permission to extend their hall onto the park site, enabling the installation of a passenger lift and modern fire evacuation facilities to enhance fire safety and universal access in the iconic building.
The extension will necessitate the removal of 15 semi-mature birch trees, nine of which are in good health. However, plans are in place to plant 15 new birch trees. Discussions have also been held to ensure the extension is sensitively incorporated into the revamped park.
The land disposal notice details the council’s plan to sell the plot, which was acquired from GP Holdings Ltd in March 1995, to Craft Properties Ltd, the legal entity for The Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster Freemasons, for €1, plus €1,500 in costs. The terms stipulate that Craft Properties must agree to allow third-party groups to use the hall for at least 20 hours a month for various purposes, either free of charge or at cost.
The Freemasons’ Hall, built in the 1760s and known as ‘The New Assembly Rooms’ on a 1771 Cork map, was bought by a Freemasons’ lodge in 1844. It has since served as the provincial headquarters for Cork city and county, and Kerry. The building is listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage and is recognized for its architectural and social significance. The disposal is set to be discussed at the next Cork City Council meeting.