Patience needed to get St Mel's Cathedral right

The unveiling of the architects who will draw up the plans for the new cathedral, with the help of parishioners, was viewed by Bishop Colm O'Reilly as a new beginning for St. Mel's.

The unveiling of the architects who will draw up the plans for the new cathedral, with the help of parishioners, was viewed by Bishop Colm O'Reilly as a new beginning for St. Mel's.

However, he stressed the need for patience before they moved re-building stage of the project.

Speaking at the press conference at his residence in Longford, Bishop Colm said, "I'm looking on this day as a day of new beginning, a day of re-emergence of hope for the future.

"We are very confident that with the help, expertise and professionalism of these two firms (Richard Hurley and Associates Architects and Fitzgerald, Kavanagh and Partners), we are going to get a very good end product."

Bishop Colm stressed that the architects and design team will need time to put together the plan for what will be the new-look cathedral.

"This is the really important work; it's not secondary, it's central to the entire quality of work when it's done," he said.

Joan O'Connor, Director of Interactive Project Managers, echoed those sentiments.

"To see the cathedral today, it was heartbreaking. It looked bad on the day after the fire, but it actually has been further de-constructed now so we can analyse what we need to do. I think we're now at the starting blocks for putting it back together again.

"Eighty percent of the critical decisions about the rebuilding and reordering of this church will be made in the first 20 percent of the project's duration.

"A hugely intensive, intellectual effort will go in now into the design decisions and translating those into the hundreds of drawings and schedules that will be required to tender and rebuild this."

Chairperson of the St. Mel's Cathedral Project committee, Seamus Butler, said he was unable to estimate the cost of the project, but said it would be revealed in the fullness of time.

"As an indication, we have already spent approximately €2m, of which €1.5m or more was spent on emergency works, enabling works and temporary roof. Some of the consequential damages from the insurance have paid for cathedral centre and the changes that we have had to make there, like the approach path.

"It's certainly not going to be cheap, but you can't price it per square metre; it's not a commercial building.

"We will, in fullness of time, make it (the cost) known to the people, because the one thing as a committee - we have given this commitment - is that this is the cathedral of the people of Longford parish and the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois."