The Sisters of Mercy convent and primary school buildings in Tulla have been formally handed over to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCE) following a ceremony, which took place in the East Clare village on Sunday.
It marks the end of an era for the Sisters of Mercy, who first came to Tulla in 1883.
CCE propose to develop the buildings into a cultural centre with particular emphasis on the cultural traditions of Clare. The development is expected to take place on a phased basis, in three proposed phases, culminating in the construction of a 250-seater auditorium.
Four sisters of Mercy came to Tulla on June 6, 1883, and today four Sisters of Mercy remain at a private residence on Church Street in Tulla.
The Sisters of Mercy donated the convent and school buildings they ran in Tulla to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann as part of the Comhaltas Cultural Project entitled Cnoc na Gaoithe.
The proposed cultural centre, when completed, will become the 17th regional cultural centre in Ireland.
Phase one of the proposed events will include the refurbishment of the convent building, which is a two-storey building located behind the church in Tulla. It is a protected structure and requires approximately €150,000 to €200,000 of work to bring the building up to standard. A new roof, new windows, increased insulation and interior works need to be carried out to do so and already CCE have lodged an application for planning permission to the local authority for these works. They have also applied for LEADER funding for phase one and it is expected that all going well, phase one will be completed this time next year.
Phase two of the development involves the refurbishment of the accommodation quarters of the convent, as well as the provision of facilities for an archive, library and other internal work.
Under phase three, comhaltas intend to develop a 250-seater performance auditorium at the school building, as part of a cultural and tourism initiative.
The Sisters of Mercy, former teachers at St Joseph’s Secondary School, Senator Labhrás O’Murchú and his wife Una of CCE Councillor Pat Hayes, Mayor of Clare, Eamon Ó Cuív TD and other distinguished guests attended the launch event on Sunday.
At the Aifreann Gaeilge, which was broadcast live on Raidió na Gaeltachta, Fr Martin O’Brien spoke about the great contribution the Sisters of Mercy gave to Tulla for over 100 years. He commented how the handing over of the convent marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new era.
Thereafter the Tulla Pipe Band played while Deputy Ó Cuiv, whose grandfather was Eamon DeValera, unveiled a stone plaque at the convent. The plaque commemorated the date the first four Sisters of Mercy arrived in Tulla. In 1883 they arrived, opening a primary school there and went on in 1959 to open a secondary school. The primary school closed in 1998, when it was amalgamated with the local boys’ primary school at St Mochulla’s. The sisters of Mercy left the school in 2001 and took up residence in a private house in Tulla.
Deputy O’Cuív outlined his grandfather’s connection to the Sisters of Mercy, as he was a regular caller to the convent every August, stopping in on his way to the County Show in Ennis.
Those who gathered for the event were led by the Tulla Pipe Band to St Joseph’s Secondary School, where a series of lectures was held. The first was delivered by Senator Ó Murchú, who acknowledged the generosity of the Sisters of Mercy and highlighted that this regional centre would be used for the promotion of the county’s and, in particular, East Clare’s culture, dance and traditions.
Other speakers included Deputy Ó Cuiv and Peadar Ó Riada, while Sr Patricia O’Mara gave a talk on 100 years of the Sisters of Mercy in Tulla and how they came to be there. She explained that a Fr Boles from Glendree was instrumental in bringing the sisters to Tulla. She added that when they first arrived three local bands and 7,000 people came to Tulla to welcome them.
The evening finished with music by the Tulla Céilí Band.