Plan to alter interior of cathedral turned down

AN Bord Pleanála has turned down a controversial proposal to rearrange the interior of St Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh, Co Cork.

But this may not be the end of the long-running saga as the instigator of the plan, Bishop John Magee, could seek a judicial review of the decision.

The Diocese of Cloyne said yesterday it was too early for them to decide on their next course of action.

However, the Friends of St Colman’s Cathedral, who have fought for eight years against the plan, expressed their delight at the news.

The board of An Bord Pleanála overruled its inspector and refused planning permission on a vote of 6-2. The ninth board member, Mary Bryan, absented herself from the vote because she was a former member of the Irish Georgian Society which, with the Department of the Environment, An Taisce and the Friends of St Colman’s Cathedral, had objected to the plan.

Spokesman for the Friends of St Colman’s Cathedral, Adrian O’Donovan, said: “We didn’t want to be put in the position we found ourselves in but we had to make a stand and defend our church. Even though we feel happy, we won’t be gloating. We hope Bishop Magee and the clergy will listen to the people and that we can all work together from now on.”

Spokesman for the Diocese of Cloyne, Father Jim Killeen, said that clergy had not yet had time to study the 92-page An Bord Pleanála report.

“A detailed study of the decision will be made by the diocesan authorities and their advisers before deciding the next course of action,” Fr Killeen said.

A three-day oral hearing, held last March, looked at Bishop Magee’s proposals, which his experts argued were liturgical requirements under Vatican II, which would bring the congregation closer to the mass.

The proposals included extending the sanctuary area into the nave; removing and partially relocating the existing altar rails; creating a permanent altar on the extended sanctuary; providing a new cathedra facing the congregation; locating the vesting sacristy at the base of the tower; converting the Pieta Chapel to a mortuary chapel; and reducing the area of the predella of the Altar of the Crucifixion in the south transept and the Altar of the Holy Family in the north transept.

An Bord Pleanála decided that the Pugin-designed 19th century cathedral was a protected structure of national importance and the alterations proposed would adversely affect its character.

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