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Organisers of the Inis Cealtra Exhibition which is now open to the public at Scarriff Public Library, (l-r) Anne Kenny, Jo Croft, Tom McNamara, Liam Waterstone, Sean Durack and Joanne Dunphy-Allen. Photography by Eugene McCafferty

East Clare exhibition celebrates Inis Cealtra

A MAJOR exhibition focusing on Inis Cealtra is under way at the Scariff Library Gallery, to celebrate the fact that the island is in the running for inclusion on Ireland’s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Lough Derg’s Holy Island is widely recognised as one of the most important early ecclesiastical sites in Ireland. The island, which is now in the ownership of Clare County Council who are developing a visitor experience centre in Mountshannon, is closely associated with St Caiman. The seventh century saint created a major centre of learning at the monastic site.
Organised in conjunction with Mountshannon Community Council, the main exhibition’s main centrepiece comes from the excavations carried out by the Office of Public Works (OPW) in the 1970s. These works unearthed a range of important artefacts and revealed the different phases of activity and occupation on the island.
The island’s archaeological remains include the iconic Round Tower, the ruins of several churches, an ancient graveyard, a holy well, high crosses, bullaun stones and a bargaining stone, where marriage vows are still renewed. Inis Cealtra boasts one of the largest collections of in situ grave-slabs from early medieval Ireland with about 80 in total, as well as cross bases, in the Saint’s Graveyard.
Through the use of information boards and images, the exhibition depicts the history, archaeology and folklore of Inis Cealtra. Excavations carried out almost half a century ago uncovered one of the very earliest churches, built from turf and wattle. Two Romanesque carvings were also found, a depiction of Christ’s head, a carving of an animals head as well as many other artefacts and human remains. The exhibition also includes a number of prints, from the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) collections and photographs of the island.
Joanne Dunphy Allen said the exhibition is the result of huge community collaboration.
“Mountshannon Community Council would not be able to share this amazing exhibition without the huge work and dedication of our Community Employment (CE) scheme under the supervision of Tom McNamara,” she said. “It’s very exciting that Scariff Library are hosting this exhibition with the news that Inis Cealtra – Holy Island is among six sites nationally being considered by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage for inclusion on the UNESCO tentative list. We encourage everyone to visit, to understand and experience the history, archaeology and folklore of Holy Island. We thank Clare County Council and library services for their support.”
The community council’s patrons for the exhibition include The Heritage Council; Cahir Solicitors, Ennis; Inis Housing Association; Michael Ellis, Ann MacNamara, Liam Church, Pat Ryan and Tom and Carmel McNamara of Mountshannon; and Hugh Weir of Whitegate.
The council also paid tribute to archaeologist Fintan McCarthy, the staff of the Deparment of Social Protection on the Kilrush Road, Ennis; milliner Ailish McElroy; Eoin O’Hagan of Clare Virtually; Ruth McMahon; Ger Madden of East Clare Heritage; Linda Herman; Paul Murray and the Gregorian Choir and The Dave Mooney Re-enactment Group.
More details on the exhibition are available from Joanne Dunphy Allen, Co-Chair Mountshannon Community Council on

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at or telephone 065 6864146.

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