Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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Start of St Mel’s restoration works imminent.

Assessor estimates five years to complete refurbishment.

14 April 2010
By Liam Cosgrove
A lot done, more to do. It may be a term more readily identified on the national political stage, but it was a message which equally applied to last weekend’s specially convened meeting concerning the restoration of St Mel’s Cathedral.
In the days and weeks following the devastating Christmas Day fire, which left large parts of the historic nineteenth century cathedral effectively destroyed, many question marks surrounding its eventual restoration emerged.

Issues like, the extent of the damage, could the fire have been prevented, the rebuilding project’s time-frame and all-round costs were challenges that had largely remained unanswered.

That was until last Saturday morning when around 100 interested observers took their place inside the college’s spacious assembly room to hear at first hand just how restoration plans were shaping up.

Danny Donohoe, a leading member of Dublin-based property loss adjusting firm, OSG, said any hopes of commencing rebuilding works were still some way off.

“There is a lot more work needed in terms of surveying the actual damage and what is left. There will be both photographic and dimensional surveys (needed).

“It will be a long time before we know what we are dealing with here and what can be achieved. All the making safe measures have all been carried out through, conservation, architects and local authority requirements.

“There is a project committee now in place to look at representations to oversee the restoration of the cathedral and a design team selection process is now underway and that’s advanced. These actions we reckon will be finished by the end of this month or into early May at the earliest,” he said.

In reiterating the fire’s origin had begun in the cathedral’s central heating network, Mr Donohoe said the fire was largely the result of the building’s heating system being left on for 17 hours, almost 12 hours above normally accepted guidelines due to sub zero temperatures and the need to heat the cathedral ahead of Midnight Mass.

Residual deposits or soot which had built up over many years effectively ignited, he said, before spreading to the sacristy area via corroded gaps in the cathedral’s chimney flu area.

In ruling out any culpability for the fire’s outbreak, Mr Donohoe added despite severe structural damage having been caused “over 200 artefacts” were salvaged, including a sixteenth century book shrine and a statue of St Mel.

That said, Mr Donohoe was up front as to where refurbishment works currently stood.

“We estimate it could take roughly five years to carry out this work. There is a conservation architect on site throughout all of this work so we can identify and preserve anything that can be salvaged.

“We needed to put in wind bracing to those external walls, because the roof is now gone, to provide support to the building. That is now just complete.

“A temporary roof for the cathedral has been designed and that will be fitted shortly. There will be protected site hoarding going up around the cathedral,” he said, adding that conservation efforts will switch to a restorative footing by the start of next month at the latest.

In fielding questions from those looking on, Mr Donohoe said it could take a full 12 months before the true extent and cost of the rebuilding works are known.

“We just don’t know. You are dealing with a very unique building. We don’t yet know the scale of what we are ultimately going to be left with or ultimately what can or can’t go back.

“We are confident that in time we will achieve a worthy restoration that will again see St Mel’s Cathedral take its place as a beautiful centre for prayer for the people of the diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise,” he said.

Bishop Colm O’Reilly, who earlier provided an historical oversight of the cathedral’s rich heritage, maintained parishioners from every corner of the Diocese will be kept fully briefed over the coming weeks and months ahead.

“I have invited people to send in written comments about how the cathedral should look,” he said in response to a question tabled by the Leader.

“Inevitably, people nearer to Longford will have more interest and involvement.

“But on the other hand we don’t want to exclude people who maybe as far away as Clonmacnoise, Shannonbridge and places like that. One of my hopes is that this might be an opportunity to draw people in and increase interest (in St Mel’s Cathedral), tragic as all as it is.”

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