Friday 19 January 2018

Stained-glass windows taken from NAMA site after rioting

Louise Hogan

RARE Harry Clarke stained-glass windows have been removed from a property in NAMA for safekeeping after they came under threat when groups armed with machetes rioted at the site.

Security guards at the 208-acre former school Belcamp College, in Balgriffin, on Dublin's northside faced intimidation from people who caused severe damage at the property.

Roscommon-born developer Gerry Gannon -- who purchased the site in 2004 for €105m from the Oblate religious order -- said the windows in the chapel on the site were removed to the National Museum of Ireland for their safekeeping after "major uproar" there over two weeks ago.

The work of the famous stained-glass artist Harry Clarke, who was responsible for the beautiful windows in Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street, are considered of significant historical importance.

The Dublin-born artist, who died aged 41 in Switzerland, in 1931, is world-renowned for his treasure trove of windows in churches and other buildings.

Bullet-proof glass was placed in front of, and behind the six ornate stained-glass windows at Belcamp. They depict Irish saints and are located in protected buildings dating back to the 1700s.

But both Mr Gannon and the conservation officer at Fingal County Council still feared the windows -- part of a set of 20 -- could be damaged.

"We decided to take them out to protect them," Mr Gannon told the Irish Independent.

"We (the workers) were attacked by machetes. There have been major problems," he added.

Dublin Fire Brigade confirmed it was called to the site on a number of occasions over the past fortnight.

The ground floor of the 250-year-old Belcamp Hall, beside the church, was badly gutted by fire and the buildings have also been ransacked for any metals of value.

Dublin historian Gerry Cooley, who attended the Belcamp College in the 1970s, said the damage done was shocking.


Fingal County Council said they had acted with the full consent and involvement of the owner, Mr Gannon, to remove the windows due to an "unprecedented level of what appears to be targeted vandalism".

She said they believed there was a "real threat to the survival of these fragile artefacts".

Raghnall O Flionn, head of collections at the National Museum, said the windows were of "national importance".

Mr Gannon, who founded the firm Gannon Homes and became a large property owner in north Dublin during the boom, said security workers had been left "terrified".

He praised the help of the council and gardai in tackling vandalism and fighting on the site. "Obviously we are eager to protect the heritage of the area that was our number one priority," Mr Gannon said.

The council said it was satisfied with the measures taken by the owner but in recent days a "serious attack on security personnel" took place, followed by "sustained attacks" on the site.

Irish Independent

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