AMBITIOUS PLANS have been unveiled to transform St Flannan’s Cathedral into a “world class” national and international venue for cultural events following a proposed €300,000 investment.
State agencies are being asked to support a major refurbishment of this iconic historical protected building as part of the provision of a new downstairs washroom, catering area and upgrading of the vestry, subject to planning permission and funding.
The select vestry committee is liaising with Clare and Tipperary County Council on how to increase its use as a cultural and community space.
It has engaged conservation architect, Conor Hourigan and historian, Judith Hill to complete a conservation plan for future development.
The Dean of the St Flannan’s Cathedral, Roderick Symth and Dean Vicar, Rev Paul Fitzpatrick, are very supportive of plans to increase the use of this iconic building for cultural purposes.
They administer clerical duties in the Nenagh Union of Parishes, which now contains the Nenagh and Strabablly group of parishes including Mountshannon, Castleconnell, Tuamgraney, Templederry, Nenagh, St Flannnan’s Killaloe and Killordiernan.
Rev Fitzpatrick told The Clare Champion they want to reinvigorate St Flannan’s because it is a fantastic, iconic, historic building. “It is historically rooted in the ancient centre of Killaloe and Ballina.
“The challenge is to make St Flannan’s a centre that locally, nationally and internationally we can be proud of and transform it into a world class centre.
“We want St Flannans’ to be open to the local, national and international community and available to all faiths and none. We are part of the Anglican Church of Ireland tradition and the Christian Catholic tradition.
“We have a brilliant community, people who worship and select vestry committee, visitors and tourists who care deeply about the Cathedral. It is not just about bricks and mortar. It is rooted in St Lua and St Flannan.
“St Flannan’s Cathedral is situated in a pivotal position on the waterway straddling the Killaloe and Ballina community. I believe its location is unique.
“It is a real treasure in our midst and we need to open it up to realise its potential. It could act as a light in the economic darkness of these times to support local businesses.
Submissions are being made to various agencies to secure grant funding and the select vestry committee also welcome corporate donations, which are tax deductible.
He said Tipperary and Clare County Council are very supportive of their plans. Next week, a meeting is planned with Clare Arts Officer, Siobhán Mulcahy and her Tipperary counterpart Melanie Scott.
Officials from the Office of Public Works have also been briefed about their plans.
Project co-ordinator, Catherine Caball said Killaloe Cathedral has a lot of historical, religious, social and economic significance.
Having helped St Mary’s Cathedral address similar financial challenges through concerts, exhibitions, talks and a major corporate banquet, Ms Caball recalled she met a very enthusiastic vestry committee to discuss the proposed upgrading project, while people in the wider community are also very supportive of plans for its future development.
When the Cathedral is properly refurbished, Ms Caball said it could act as a venue for regular concerts and other events that would create a local economic spin-off for hotels, restaurants and bars, subject to Covid-19 guidelines.
The proposed upgrading is in addition to extensive renovation and repair work that is required in the Cathedral.
Committee member, Deborah Dudgeon is excited about their development plans.
“It is our most historic building and is the jewel in our crown. It is a 13th century building with artefacts going back to the ninth century.
“It is very medieval and has connections with Brian Ború. It is a huge piece of our history. It is an underutilised space.
“The chancel part is used for the regular Sunday service and the nave, which is huge could be used for exhibitions and events.
“It belongs to people in Killaloe and the surrounding area and is not just a place of worship.
St Flannan’s Cathedral hosted five Sunday music selections and the Killaloe Music Festival recently
The children of Ballina National School drew peoples’ heads, which were placed on all the pews for the festival.
She recalled during the live streaming singers were socially distanced in the Cathedral.
“Because of the filming for the live streaming you could see the interior of the Cathedral without distraction. It really showcased the Cathedral and showed us what is possible.”
Major funding is needed to provide downstairs toilets and make the entrance inside the main door accessible for people with disabilities.
Citing the example of St James’ Church in Dingle, she recalled Other Voices stage concerts in the church, which illustrates what can be achieved in St Flannan’s.
On Saturday, July 10, local musician and singer songwriter Norma Manley will stream a concert from the Cathedral to celebrate Féile Brian Ború.
by Dan Danaher