Ardagh Church in planning probe storm

St Brigid's Church, Ardagh. Photo: Shelley Corcoran
A planning investigation is underway into concerns surrounding the relocation of a baptismal font inside one of Co Longford’s oldest churches.

A planning investigation is underway into concerns surrounding the relocation of a baptismal font inside one of Co Longford’s oldest churches.

Longford County Council confirmed an inquiry has been set up at St Brigid’s Church in Ardagh after a complaint was lodged in recent days.

It comes after a number of parishioners expressed their anger over the shock move earlier this week.

Local woman Mary Lyons said she had been left aghast at the alleged unannounced change in a building which is one of almost 400 protected structures countywide.

“I was shocked when I went to Mass a week ago to discover that the baptismal font, installed when the church was built in the 1880s, had been uprooted from its position at the rear of the building and moved to the top, near the altar,” she said.

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, any modifications made to a listed building are subject to planning approval if they ‘affect the character of the structure’.

Parishioners like Ms Lyons believe the font’s transerral from the rear to the front of the historic 19th Century Church is a direct contravention of this.

It also bears strikingly similar hallmarks to a similar row last May in which plans to carry out renovation works sparked almost identical criticism.

“St Brigid’s is a protected structure and no work can carried out on it, or no parts of the original fabric interfered with, without planning permission,” added Ms Lyons.

Attempts to make contact with Ardagh and Moydow Parish Priest Fr Pat Lennon were unsuccessful.

A spokesperson, acting on his behalf, said a meeting was held with an external planning consultant in which assurances were given that no planning permission was required.

“The font was in a bad state of repair and will now be brought into use,” he said.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the parish are quite happy with the job that has been done on the Church.

He spoke about the church’s rededication at the weekend at which Papal Nuncio Charles Browne attended.

“It’s a small issue and I would hate to think this would overshadow what was a very successful event,” the spokesman added.