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Cathedral treasures saved

More than 200 historic items have been recovered from a cathedral destroyed by fire.

St Mel's Cathedral, in Longford, was gutted after a blaze tore through the building just a few hours after Midnight Mass had been celebrated on Christmas Day.

Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois Colm O'Reilly said the items saved are being restored by the National Museum of Ireland.

"It seemed at first that the entire contents of the museum had perished in the fire," he told Mass-goers.

"Thanks to the efforts of a team from the National Museum of Ireland, who have been working at the site for the last few weeks, a significant number of objects have survived and have been recovered.

"All have suffered fire damage and it is not yet clear how they will appear after conservation."

The collection was assembled in the 1930s and 1940s by the late Fr Michael Kearney, president of St Mel's College, and moved to the cathedral in 1974.

It was ranked among the finest ecclesiastical museums in the country.

Among the objects of national importance was the ninth-century crozier of St Mel, patron of the diocese, which was found at Ardagh, Co Longford, in the 19th-century.

Also housed there was the Shrine of St Caillinn of Fenagh, Co Leitrim -- a shrine dated to 1536 and associated with Brian O'Rourke, Lord of Breifne.