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No council funds for derelict church repairs

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Concerned local resident Rosaleen Kennedy pictured visiting Kilbonane Church in Kerry yesterday. on Thursday. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Concerned local resident Rosaleen Kennedy pictured visiting Kilbonane Church in Kerry yesterday. on Thursday. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Concerned local resident Rosaleen Kennedy pictured visiting Kilbonane Church in Kerry yesterday. on Thursday. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Cash-strapped Irish councils have no funding to repair more than 400 unused churches in old cemeteries nationwide.

The revelation came amid fears dozens of the old church buildings now face serious deterioration or even collapse unless major works are undertaken.

Several have suffered serious damage to their roofs from recent violent storms.
In one county, Kerry, there are 23 churches and church ruins that need repair or stabilisation work.

Nationwide, it is estimated that more than 400 abandoned churches require significant maintenance works.

The number would be even higher but for the increased use of old deconsecrated Church of Ireland buildings as museums, art houses and even resource centres over recent decades. Other church properties have been sold off as private developments.

During the 1950s, the Church of Ireland closed 144 church premises – many attached to cemeteries – due to decline in congregation numbers.

Over recent decades, six churches closed in Cork city alone.

Despite many of the structures being of historical importance, they have remained effectively abandoned.

Councils warned that due to budgetary constraints and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on finances, they do not have the resources to tackle major repairs of abandoned churches at a time when social housing lists are also under enormous pressure.

Kerry Councillor Brendan Cronin said many structures such as the old Kilbonane Church in Beaufort need urgent repairs or face the risk of collapse. Councillor Cronin warned Radio Kerry that the church is a protected archaeological monument and needs to be preserved for future generations.

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However, there are 22 other old, abandoned churches in Kerry cemeteries now in need of repair. It is estimated that more than 400 old churches nationwide are at risk of either ruin or collapse because of neglect and exposure to the elements.

In some cases, councils have been unable to fund repair works themselves but have tried to support local voluntary campaigns aimed at saving the structures. These have included community fundraising and even support from local construction craftsmen.


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