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  • Northside East

Call for reflection as Howth pastoral centre row rumbles on

Friday, 2nd August, 2019 8:00am
Call for reflection as Howth pastoral centre row rumbles on

St Columbanus Hall, Howth. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

Call for reflection as Howth pastoral centre row rumbles on

St Columbanus Hall, Howth. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

FINGAL County Council has been urged to intervene to prevent the sale of a 19th century parish building in Howth.

As reported by Northside People earlier this month, there are local fears that St Columbanus Hall could be sold to fund the development of a new €1.4m pastoral centre within the grounds of the Church of the Assumption. An architect has been appointed to oversee the project, which is at pre-planning stage. A decision to proceed with the development could be made this year, subject to funding and planning permission.

However, a suggestion that St Columbanus Hall – which is widely used by community groups – could be sold has been met with opposition from some Howth residents. A petition calling for the building to be saved has collected more than 1,000 signatures and local politicians have been lobbied by campaigners.

Howth’s parish priest, Fr Gerry Tanham, recently told his newspaper that the sale of St Columbanus Hall was just one of a number of options being looked at. A statement outlining the Church’s official position was distributed at recent Masses and posted on the parish website.

It’s understood that ease of access from the church to a linked pastoral centre was one of the factors behind the decision not to upgrade St Columbanus Hall. In addition, it is also felt that the elevated location of the existing building makes it less accessible for people with disabilities, the elderly and parents with buggies. 

It’s envisaged that the new facility will be similar to the pastoral centre at St Sylvester’s Church in Malahide, albeit on a smaller scale. 

However, local campaigners argue that St Columbanus Hall is “part of the living fabric and heritage of Howth” and claim that the idea of it being sold had caused “uproar”.

Following contact from concerned residents, Independent TD for Dublin Bay North, Tommy Broughan, raised the matter with the Minister for Rural and Community Development and the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 

In reply to his parliamentary question, he was informed that St Columbanus Hall is recorded in the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s ‘National Inventory of Architectural Heritage’ as being of regional importance, qualifying it for recommendation to the local authority for inclusion in its Record of Protected Structures.

Deputy Broughan said he was delighted to learn that St Columbanus Hall is on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage and has passed on this information to those campaigning to save the building.

“Hopefully Fingal County Council can intervene in any proposals from the Church to sell this historic building and ensure it is kept and protected as part of Howth’s community,” Deputy Broughan said.

Senator Catherine Noone (FG) called for dialogue to address concerns over St Columbanus Hall.

“This is an issue of great concern to many Howth residents,” she said. “St Columbanus Hall has been used as a de-facto community centre for some time. Several groups rely on access to the hall to provide their services.

“I have written to both the parish and to the Archbishop’s representatives outlining my concerns over the proposed sale of the hall and the long-term impact this will have on our community.”

She added: “I believe that a moment of pause and reflection would be beneficial in this matter.” 

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