A ROW has broken out between parishioners and Catholic authorities over the €700,000 renovations to a country church.
More than 80 parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Creagh outside Ballinasloe, Co Galway, have demanded that renovation works cease after they claimed a number of planning stipulations were breached.
Parishioners are applying to Galway planning authorities to have the works stopped until matters can be resolved.
They have also demanded the suspension of Mass collections for the renovation fund.
Former Ballinasloe mayor John Molloy said locals had voiced serious concerns about a number of changes to the refurbishment plans.
Among the most serious concerns was the removal of the original tiles from the nave of the church, which had been described as "an asset" by the local council.
"These tiles were put down in the 1930s and are supposed to be protected. They run right up the nave across the front. Parishioners understood they were to remain but they have all been removed and they are putting white marble in their place. What took place is cultural vandalism," said Mr Molloy.
Locals are also unhappy that a boundary wall outside the church is over a foot higher than what appeared on the plans. They claim the change is ruining the aspect of the church. They are also concerned about landscaping, with the number of trees due to be planted rising from 19 to 60.
"We examined the plan and it was placed at the back of the church for parishioners to view but that doesn't help if what they end up doing is totally different. People are very annoyed about it. We've been in to meet the priest but we felt we had to take it further," added Mr Molloy.
Our Lady of Lourdes was once the Athlone military garrison church, built in the 1880s. In the early 1930s it was dismantled and transported block by block to its current location were it was reconstructed and consecrated in 1933.
The concerned parishioners held a meeting this week to discuss the refurbishment where 80 signed a statement claiming that the work was not in accordance with the guidelines as stipulated in the drawing plans. They called for an immediate halt to the work.
They also called for the second collection at weekend Masses over the last number of years, which went towards the building fund, to be halted.
Invitations had been issued to church authorities and members of the restoration committee to attend the meeting but they declined.
Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby said he was surprised by the protest, adding that the restoration committee was working closely with the local council.
"If people have any concerns there is a restoration committee that they can put their case to. The committee has been following all the rules as far as I am aware.
"They have also been working closely with a conservation officer from Galway County Council," he added.