CAMPAIGNERS welcomed a decision by Cork City Council last night to save one of only two Huguenot cemeteries left in Europe from controversial development plans.
City manager Joe Gavin confirmed that the city has agreed to buy the historic burial ground on Carey’s Lane, which dates from 1710, with a view to restoring it as a cultural and tourist attraction.
“The restored burial ground will be an acknowledgement of the importance which we attach to our history and heritage and will itself become a cultural visitor attraction,” Mr Gavin said in a report presented to councillors.
Petra Coffey, a member of the Friends of the Huguenot Cemetery group, said she was extremely pleased with the move.
“This has been going on since 1989 and at last the city has appreciated what a gem it has — it’s a very special little place,” she said.
The owner of the derelict cemetery, John Murphy, had lodged plans with the council a number of months ago to build a coffee shop and exhibition area with interpretive panels on the site. It was his third planning application for the site in almost a decade.
The cemetery, which is a recorded monument, is believed to contain the remains of at least one former Lord Mayor of Cork.
The Friends of the Huguenot Cemetery led a campaign against the plans.
Ms Coffey gathered support from leading academics around the world.
In recent weeks, the Huguenot Societies from Washington and New York, and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, called on the city to step in and preserve the burial ground.
Mr Gavin told councillors last night that following talks with Mr Murphy, the city has agreed to buy the vast majority of the burial site.
Included in the purchase is a structure incorporating a store and toilets which intrudes into the centre of the burial ground.
It is widely believed that this structure is built in the area of the Pique family vault. It is understood plans will be drawn up to remove this structure. Mr Murphy will retain an 8ft 2in strip along the northern boundary of the site in the hope of securing planning permission for stairs to the first floor of a property he owns and which he plans to develop as a restaurant.
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