Leading figures behind a steering group charged with heading up the planned restoration of St Mel’s Cathedral have revealed there will be no major design changes when construction work gets underway early next year.
Seamus Butler, chairperson of the St Mel’s Cathedral Project Committee hinted at possible changes to the cathedral’s inner appearance, saying the structure of the new look cathedral would stay largely unchanged.
“The interior will be as was, pretty much, as it is a listed building. We don’t have any choice in the matter as it is a classical basillica. There is consultation going on with the Diocesan Liturgical Committee and Architectural Committee regarding some layout changes but that would be subject to planning,” he said.
Mr Butler was speaking ahead of the appointment of exploratory contractors which project committee members hope to announce later today (Wednesday).
The former Fianna Fail councillor said members of the public will also be able to see first hand the progress architects and structural experts have made since a fire swept through the landmark cathedral.
“We hope to appoint a contractor for investigatory phase works on Wednesday and we also hope to have an area for public access (to the cathedral),” he said, when speaking to the Leader on Monday evening. “We (project team) feel this is important, though it hasn’t been possible before due to health and safety. One complete column will also be removed and replaced with a solid limestone column.”
As well as carrying out exhaustive fact finding works, design experts are also expected to identify whether pioneering cost saving mechanisms can be utilised before building works commence next year.
“We are going to be carrying out trial holes in the crypt area to see if there is a geo-thermal source for heating. The investigatory phase of works will hopefully be completed by the end of September with the main contractor being in place early in the New Year,” he added.
The Longford businessman was just as forthright when giving his reaction to claims the project committee had snubbed two letters sent by Longford County Council seeking an update about the cathedral in recent months.
“One letter was actually replied to before it arrived. The (former) Mayor (Cllr Paul Connell) was anxious to have a presentation made by the committee before his time (as Mayor) was up. It just wasn’t logistically possible,” he said, adding the committee hoped to give local representatives an update over the next number of weeks.