The Church of Ireland premises on the remote Errislannan peninsula in Connemara, which is mainly used during the summer, was attacked by vandals in recent days.
The damage to the little church has shocked the local community and Canon Stan Evans, who is in charge of the parishes of Errislannan, Clifden, Roundstone, and Moyard, said it is clear that it was a calculated attack.
Canon Evans said he is shocked by the “stupid” and “calculated” vandalism that has left the church almost to the point of the ruin. It could take up to €70,000 to bring the Holy Trinity Church back to its former state.
Errislannan is located outside Clifden, about 85km from Galway City, along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Canon Evans said the whole of the interior of the church is ruined, with windows smashed, all the electrics ripped out of the walls, and the pulpit, pews, and organ all destroyed.
“It’s just firewood,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it. This is the worst experience I have ever had during my ministry, it’s horrendous. The place was in such shock.
“It was absolutely stupid vandalism but when you look at it, it was calculated. Every pew was turned over and smashed. Everything that was special in the place has been completely desecrated.
“We don’t know when it was vandalised, but it was within the last three or four days. I had been past the church the day before and from the roadside you wouldn’t see any damage at all. There is a large church bible which was flung out through the east end window. If it had been outside for a long time it wouldn’t have been in the condition that it is. But whoever has done this, with the damage that has been done, it would have taken more than one person.”
The church has up to 30 regular parishioners and hosts evening services during July and August. However, it has been a constant attraction for tourists throughout the year, due to its location on the Errislannan peninsula.
The vandalism was discovered on Wednesday lunchtime when local parishioner Roger Bewley called to the church. He notified Canon Evans, who was in Galway at the time.
Despite the massive set-back for the parish, Canon Evans says the community will bounce back and defy those who damaged their beloved church.
“This is only the material,” he said. “The people are the most important thing. That would take preference over the material, but this church will be up and running for next summer most definitely.
“We work together as one community. We are absolutely at one with our Catholic neighbours. The [Catholic] parish priest, Fr James Ronayne, stands completely beside us. We do everything as one here and this just hurts. He is hurting as much as I am at the moment.
“We have a unique situation in this parish. We have the most wonderful example of ecumenism of working together with each other. We are as one.
“Last week, Fr James and myself named a new lifeboat together and we had a special ceremony for that. We do everything together. He is as devastated as I am.”
Gardaí at Clifden have appealed for witnesses to the vandalism to contact them on 09522500.