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Friday 23 August 2019

President visits church wrecked by vandals the day before Hurricane Ophelia hit

Photo: Aoife Herriott
Photo: Aoife Herriott

Mary McDonnell

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins paid a generous visit this weekend to a community still in shock after their church was wrecked by vandals the day before Hurricane Ophelia hit.

Two teenagers caused an estimated €70,000 worth of damage to The Holy Trinity Church on the Errislannan peninsula in Clifden, Connemara last month.

The church’s reverend said President Higgins “lifted the spirits” of the restoration group on Friday.

Reverend Stan Evans told “It’s lifted our hearts with the President coming. He was extremely compassionate. Sabina was just wonderful in her role and the way she talked to the team.

“The most moving moment for me was to see him lovingly embrace our 92-year-old restorer of the Church. She’s wheelchair-bound. It meant so much to her.”

The President was pictured embracing Stephanie Brooks (92) the church’s chief restorer whose husband restored the church back in 1961. She is pictured beaming at President Higgins as he holds her hand.

Photographs of the damage done show pews were overturned and ripped from the ground on October 15.

Reverend Evans said the President was clearly moved by what he saw.

He said: “I think you can’t help but be stunned (when you see the damage). He acknowledged he was coming into a sacred space which had been so decimated. The whole place is still very much a site of destruction. It’s very sad.”

The church has received an outpouring of support in the weeks since the vandalism, including from a Galway mosque which was attacked in June during Ramadan prayers. Imam Ibrahim Noonan visited the Connemara church after it was destroyed.

Reverands Evans said: “We hear so much about what is wrong in Ireland but the outpouring of love and compassion for a place of sanctity has been absolutely outstanding.

“(Mosque leaders from Galway) came and they wanted us to know they stand with us and understand our pain. They said they would stand alongside use and offer any help they can.”

The church is reviewing the damage for insurance purposes as Gardai in Clifden continue their investigation.

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