Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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From the Sunday Business Post, 13 January 2008:

Falling masonry forces part-closure of cathedral
Sunday, January 13, 2008 – By Kieron Wood
When worshippers at St Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh, Co Cork, gaze heavenwards during Mass, they are as likely to be considering falling masonry as spiritual matters.

The magnificent Pugin cathedral, set high above Cobh harbour, has been undergoing renovations for 15 years, but now a large section of the cathedral has had to be closed to the public because of collapsing stonework.

Although millions of euro have been spent on repairs, figures released last week show that most of the money collected for the restoration is going on professional fees.

According to accounts filed with the Companies Office by the Cobh Cathedral restoration fund, €358,305 was paid to building contractors between 2000 and 2006,while €367,605 was spent on professional fees, advertising and promotions. In 2006 alone, €148,000went on professional fees, while just €4,000 was spent on the cathedral bells.

The restoration programme began in 1992,when it was discovered that the roof slates of St Colman’s were crumbling. The projected cost was estimated at up to €5 million.

To date, the roof has been reslated, with some woodwork replaced, the granite stonework has been cleaned and pointed, the stained glass windows have been storm glazed and re-leaded, statues repaired, a new electrical system installed, the carillon restored and two new bells added. A new sub-floor heating system has been installed, the entire wood block floor replaced and an up-to-date fire detection system installed.

The Accumulated Fund of St Colman’s Roman Catholic Trust Limited at December 31, 2006 totalled €1,092,702 – mainly raise by contributions from parishioners, a contribution from the Cloyne Diocesan Fund, grants and other donations.

Total income of the fund between 1993 and 2006 amounted to €5,479,100, and total payments on the cathedral restoration programme amount to €4,386,398.

But proposals by the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr John Magee, to refurbish the cathedral interior have met stiff local opposition, with more than 24,000 local people signing a petition against the plans.

Despite more than 200 objections from individuals and groups, Cobh Town Council granted permission for the changes in September 2006.

The newly formed Friends of St Colman’s Cathedral (FOSCC) appealed to An Bord Pleanala, supported by the Department of the Environment, the Georgian Society, An Taisce and the Pugin Society in England.

After a three-day oral hearing in February and March 2006, the planning board rejected the changes, and work came to a halt.

But last month, parishioners were warned that ‘‘safety concerns’’ had arisen about masonry high up on the south of the cathedral.

‘‘For this reason, it has become necessary to cordon off a part of the south side. Arrangements have already been made to have this matter dealt with as soon as possible.”

A diocesan spokesman told The Sunday Business Post: ‘‘No part of the cathedral has collapsed in any way. Since December, a section of the south nave and the south aisle of the cathedral have, for safety reasons, been cordoned off due to fragments falling from the clerestory wall. The occurrence is currently being examined by experts and a report is awaited.

‘‘Less than 10 per cent of the seating capacity is cordoned off. Over 90 per cent of the cathedral is still in use.”

But Adrian O’Donovan, spokesman for FOSCC, said: ‘‘We have expressed our concerns in relation to the lack of maintenance in the cathedral for some time. We are most anxious that any further works are carried out to the highest professional and conservation standards.”

The situation has been the subject of online debate on the architectural blog Archiseek, with contributors claiming parts of the cathedral were littered with bits of stone and questioning the standards of the work done.

The diocesan spokesman said all restoration work had been done to the highest standards and under the guidance of eminent architects and conservation experts.

‘‘The restoration programme still remains incomplete. Specifications are being prepared for restoration work on the entrance, doors and mosaic floors of the cathedral. This work will be done in consultation with the planning authorities and in accordance with planning requirements and guidelines. The main altar in the sanctuary of this magnificent cathedral is still a moveable plywood structure,” he said.

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