A grant of €29,950 has been made by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage for a conservation study of Kilfenora Cathedral. The purpose is to define necessary restoration works, and also to identify ways to develop and widen public access to the Cathedral for heritage, cultural and community use.
This is one of 139 grants totalling €4m announced by Minister Malcolm Noonan, TD on 16 June.
The grant application was made by Rev Kevin O’Brien, with the help of Kilfenora Development and Clare Co Council. The work will be carried out by specialist conservation architects Paul Arnold and Associates.
Kilfenora Cathedral has been closed for use for several years, and has suffered some deterioration internally and externally. It is sad that the fine interior of this important national monument, a community resource for over 830 years, has been shut to visitors and the community. However that should change.
It was recommended to Kilfenora Development and the Church of Ireland that a professional study is a necessary precursor to getting a further grant for the restoration work.
In addition the study will examine ways for the Cathedral to be used by the village of Kilfenora, and how enough income can be generated to pay for its upkeep. The intention is to maintain the building as a place of worship, but also to improve its usability for various community and tourism purposes.
Rev Kevin O’Brien is keen for example that It can be used again as a concert venue – as it has been during the Kilfenora Trad Fest – and as a showcase for local talent and young musicians. “In the absence of a local CoI congregation, it is really for the Kilfenora community to embrace this unique building and make best use of it.”
Both to oversee the project and manage the Cathedral in future, a steering group – and eventually perhaps a board of trustees – will need to be formed by the various stakeholders, including our community of course, within the next few months.
In the meantime, the Burren Centre plans to start guided tours of the village for visitors – with the Cathedral, celtic crosses and Holy Well as core attractions – offering a rewarding and relaxed experience for those escaping from the overcrowding at the coast and the Cliffs.
In due course, once repair works have eventually been done, it is hoped that it will be possible to re-open the Cathedral interior on a regular basis.