GAA cries foul in unholy row over church field sale
TWO pillars of a community are at loggerheads over the sale of a property that has come on the open market.
To the outside world, it's an old ruin in need of major renovation -- but the sale of an old presbytery on 15 acres of land has sparked a row between a local GAA club and the church.
It's a tale that would have given playwright John B Keane plenty of fodder and, according to one local woman, the sale of the presbytery in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, is now referred to locally as "The Field".
At a public meeting in the village on Wednesday night, it was proposed that people interested in the property should be asked to withdraw any offers.
It was also proposed that Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy should be told that unless the GAA was allowed to buy it, the community was not happy for it to be sold to anyone else.
Another suggestion was that the GAA would buy the property but would hand over a green site to the council for the development of a community centre.
The presbytery is owned by St Brendan's Trust and has been put on the market by the diocese on its behalf. It was donated to the church by a local family in the 1850s, but has not been used for a number of years.
It adjoins Kilgarvan GAA club, which originally wanted to buy nine acres to allow it to develop its facilities. Attempts were made by the GAA to privately purchase this land parcel and it made an offer of €50,000 in June last year.
The property was then put on the open market for €230,000 and the Irish Independent understands that an offer in excess of €255,000 has since been made.
Former Kerry footballer and four-time All-Ireland medal winner Tom Spillane, who is handling the sale, said he did not want to add "fuel to fire" by commenting. "My instructions from St Brendan's Trust are to get the best price for the house and land," he said.
Kilgarvan GAA chairman Tom Randles told the meeting that the GAA bid €205,000 when the property came on the market but then "a foreigner" went €1,000 ahead of that.
"We're trying to develop it for the youth and if they (St Brendan's Trust) had any sense of decency, they wouldn't be interested in money," he said.
One local resident, Kenmare auctioneer Michael O'Connor, said he had discouraged one prospective buyer by telling them they would be going against the community.
A representative from St Brendan's Trust was not invited to attend the meeting, but Mr Randles said it had been publicised and was "open to man, woman or child".
The Irish Independent contacted the Diocese of Kerry but had not received a response late last night.