Bishop defends use of Italian firm for organ restoration
A BISHOP was last night forced to defend the use of an Italian firm to restore an organ destroyed in a cathedral fire after a Fine Gael TD pressed him to "support our own".
Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Colm O'Reilly said the diocese would save €30,000 by choosing Fratelli Ruffati to rebuild the organ at St Mel's Cathedral in Longford, which was ravaged in a Christmas morning fire three years ago.
Local TD James Bannon wrote to Bishop O'Reilly last week urging him to consider Co Wicklow company Kenneth Jones Pipe Organs Ltd, which tendered for the contract.
The Bray firm installed the now destroyed organ in 1983.
Mr Bannon said the "current state of the country puts the onus on all of us to 'shop local'".
He added: "At a time of incredible financial hardship, it is more important than ever to support our own."
Millions of euro worth of damage was done to the cathedral when a fire ripped through it early on Christmas Day 2009.
The fire started at the back of the church, destroying the building and a museum, which housed priceless artefacts.
In a statement, Bishop O'Reilly said the expert committee established to oversee the organ tendering process recommended that the contract be offered to specialist Padua-based firm Fratelli Ruffati on the basis of "musicality, design of the organ and value for money".
The committee was chaired by Professor Gerard Gillen, of the music department at NUI Maynooth.
In a letter to Bishop O'Reilly dated February 23, Mr Bannon said Ireland's recovery was dependent on supporting home-grown businesses.
"Given the historical connection and in light of the already proven excellence of their work, I would strongly ask that the matter be reconsidered," the Fine Gael TD wrote.
In response Bishop O'Reilly said: "On behalf of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise I must be accountable for every cent received and spent in the interest of the faithful."
The Catholic Communications Office declined to give details on how much Padua-based Fratelli Ruffati had tendered for the work, stating the process was ongoing.
A spokesman for the bishop said he intends to reply to Mr Bannon, but that the information was being put on the public record because of Mr Bannon's letter and media questions. Kenneth Jones Pipe Organs Ltd could not be reached for comment last night.