THE historic church at Donaghmore in Ballygarrett, which is reputed to be linked to St Patrick, and the adjoining graveyard are in imminent danger of falling into the sea as the coastal erosion in the area continues unabated.
Storm Jake last week resulted in further damage to the coastline, leaving one house hanging in mid-air, and another two perilously close to the edge. However, the land slippage has meant the access road and the graveyard and church ruin on the other side are now at serious risk.
Local resident Nicholas Wafer said they are talking to the council about the problem, but that if action can't be taken soon, locals will have to undertake protection measures themselves. 'It's possible the road could shift,' he said. 'Locals are very worried.'
The road at Donaghmore serves as access for up to eight houses, and they could be cut off if the road gives way.
Another local man Peter Earle said that hundreds of local families have deceased family members in the graveyard. 'The church is one of the original Christian churches in Ireland and dates back to AD 400,' he said. 'Legend has it that it was one of St Patrick's first churches.'
Peter said that after the Reformation, it became a Church of Ireland church, but the graveyard continued to be used by both Catholics and Protestants. The graveyard is now full, and burials take place in Ballygarrett and Ardamine, but some burials as recent as December 2015 have taken place.
'The roadway is the only thing that remains between the graveyard and the sea,' he said. 'Only 30 feet of bank is left, and the storms have taken a good 30 feet of bank and the width of the beach. There was a lot of slippage last week. Right opposite the graveyard is where the real danger is.'
Council roads engineer Neville Shaw said the Council is responsible for the road as far as the graveyard, and he hoped to get an engineer to look at the site this week.