'It's nothing but an insult' - scout group devastated to receive eviction notice from parish
A south Dublin scout group is praying for a Christmas miracle after its parish ordered the members to leave their den by the end of the year.
Its members have used their own time and money to upgrade the premises, which is used by up to 100 children from the Newcastle and Celbridge area.
However, parents are now in uproar with their local church after they were told their den will be rented out as a commercial property when the lease expires on December 31.
Group leader Sandra Phipps told Independent.ie that they are devastated by the news.
"To receive this eviction notice by our own church's solicitors so close to Christmas is nothing but an insult," she said.
"Newcastle lacks many amenities for young people so it would be an awful shame if we had to suspend our activities and are forced to close.
"We don't have an alternative venue to hold our meetings or even to store our valuable equipment, which we have worked so hard to build up over the years.
"Time is running out for our scouts and since the parish isn't communicating with us at all we can only pray for a miracle."
Newcastle resident Mairead O'Connor said the local scout group has done wonders for her two children.
"My oldest boy, who's not sporty all at all, has benefited so much from the scouts," she said.
"His self-confidence has shot up since he first joined and he would be devastated if the facility has to close.
"The parish should be thanking us for what we've done for the children of this community.
"Our members pay a yearly fee and are more than willing to let other youth groups use the centre as well.
"We've been given so little time to prepare for this and the parish's conduct certainly says a lot about them."
An online petition to save the scout den has been set up by local councillor Francis Timmons and has amassed nearly 2,000 signatures.
"Groups like the scouts keep young people from getting involved in antisocial behaviour and are a huge asset to local communities," he said.
"The scouts teach young people a sense of civic pride and responsibility.
"It would be devastating for everyone involved and a huge loss to the young people of Newcastle to lose such an invaluable facility for commercial gain."
Efforts to contact representatives at St Finian's Church were unsuccessful.
However, a spokesperson from the Archdiocese of Dublin said: "I understand discussions on the future use of the former school are ongoing at parish level with a number of parish and community groups involved."