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A workman cleans one of the four graves found so far Ennis Pro Cathedral. Photograph by John Kelly

Unmarked graves uncovered in Ennis Cathedral

THE unmarked graves of at least four people have been discovered inside the Ennis Cathedral. The graves, which are located beneath the floor of the main cathedral, are understood to be more than 100 years old, and may have been the resting places of local priests and bishops.
The burial sites were uncovered during ongoing works to remove a vinyl floor covering from the cathedral. This covering was installed in 1973 and it is unclear if the graves were known about before the covering was installed.
Each of the four graves were identified by a distinctive cross pattern in the original tile floor, located beneath the vinyl covering. Land for the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul was donated to the diocese in 1828 and the building itself was constructed in various stages between 1828 and 1894. Mass was first celebrated in the church in 1842, and it is not clear exactly when during this period the original tile flooring was installed or when these graves may have been constructed.
According to local priest, Father Tom Fitzpatrick, they are likely to discover more unmarked graves when other sections of the vinyl floor covering is removed in the weeks ahead.
“On the left hand side of the Cathedral, which we call the Old Ground side, they have discovered four graves so far, of individuals who seem to be buried there, but there are no names on the graves,” said Fr Fitzpatrick.
“The original tiles are still intact beneath the covering and are still in relatively good condition. There were people buried there in the past, we are certain of that. “We know, that in the midline of the church, that Bishop McRedmond [who died in 1904] and Bishop Fogarty [who died in 1955] are buried, because their graves are marked and identified. But these other graves haven’t been marked or identified.
“The floor on the opposite side of the church is still to be done so I think that there could be six or seven unidentified graves.”
It is thought that these graves may belong to priest and bishops who served in the diocese well over 100 years ago.
“The graves may also be associated with a number of dedication plaques which are located at different spots throughout the cathedral. We do have a number of names on plaques, located at different locations around the church, and I think it is possible that these plaques will indicate who these people are. It will take time for us to be able to explore this fully,” said Fr Fitzpatrick.
“There is a plaque for a Bishop Flannery of Killaloe, who died in 1901, and a Father Patrick Barry, who died at 43 years of age in 1900, James McInerney, who was a young priest, who died in 1895 and may have been a native of Ennis. This is something that happened in the past. In other places, people would have been buried in the vault. We don’t have a vault in the cathedral in Ennis so it seems that instead they were buried under the floor of the building itself.
“We will do everything we can with these graves. We are working with a conservation officer, our architect and the contractors, Martin Constructions, to restore what is there to its original beauty.”

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