Reverend Mother fined €1,000 over breach of planning law in Cork

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Reverend Mother Fined €1,000 Over Breach Of Planning Law In Cork
Judge McNulty said that surely Mother Irene's benefactors would "want to put matters right..leave no trace".
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Olivia Kelleher

A Reverend Mother who was convicted of setting up an illegal hermitage in West Cork has been fined €1,000.

Mother Irene Gibson appeared at Skibbereen District Court in December 2019 where she was found guilty of a breach of Planning Laws.

At the time she said she ignored letters from the local authority as she was too busy praying to study County Council Law.

The breach arose after she had established a hermitage, without planning permission in Leap, Co Cork.

New home

The case was adjourned to give Mother Irene an opportunity to organise a new home for herself and her fellow nun , Sr Annemarie Loeman.

When the case returned to the court last September, Executive Planner with Cork County Council, Philip O’Sullivan told Judge James NcNulty that the two nuns were still living at the site in Leap.

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However, they had closed off the entrance and reduced the number of structures on the site from seven to four.

As of last September Mother Irene said she and Sr Annemarie were living in two 8ft by 10ft garden sheds where they lead a quiet life of prayer and reflection.

Mother Irene said that they would move from the hermitage.

Tridentine Mass

However, she insisted thatthey wanted to stay near Leap in order to attend a Latin or Tridentine Mass in the area.

Judge McNulty said he understood that property prices in coastal areas such as West Cork might be outside the price range of the nuns.

He suggested that they might consider looking at moving to sparsely populated areas such as Leitrim or Mayo. The case was further adjourned to give the nuns time to find a new home.

Today at Skibbereen District Court Mother Irene confirmed that the nuns had moved out of the hermitage to an undisclosed location with planning permission.

Solicitor for Cork County Council, Margaret Noelle O'Sullivan, said that significant progress had been made since the last court sitting as the nuns had left the site. The four structures have been taken down and all remains at the site is an orange fence.

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Ms O'Sulllivan said that the site had been cleared and residential use had ceased. She stressed that the local authority was "most anxious to conclude the matter."
She asked that the nuns remove the fence.

However, Judge McNulty said that the fence was not "visually offensive or structurally obtrusive".

Fence

"It is a nice fence and many a home would love to have it. In the overall scheme of things they (the nuns) have come a long way. If Cork Couty Council are so offended by the fence they can make their own arrangements to take it away. It is not doing any harm."

Ms O'Sullivan said that Mother Irene was of limited means. The minimum fine in the case was €2500 unless the defendant doesn't have the financial means to pay.

Mother Irene gave evidence that she was in receipt of money under trust from benefactors which was used to purchase a house which is currently under refurbishment.

She also receives a small amount of money in State benefits from the Government.

Judge McNulty said that surely Mother Irene's benefactors would "want to put matters right..leave no trace".

Fine

He fined Mother Irene €500 and also ordered her to pay another €500 towards the legal costs of the local authority. She was given 30 days to pay and agreed to hand over the funds during that time period.

The case was further adjourned until the 27th of July next. None of the parties involved need to appear on that occasion if the funds have been furnished.

On their website the Nuns of the Holy Face of Jesus say that modern society has an "urgent need for contemplative prayer, for unending praise, adoration and supplication on behalf of a weary world."

The nuns stress that when contemplative religious dedicate their lives to complete union with Christ, "a powerhouse of prayer " results.

It is understood Reverend Mother Irene has lost thousands arising out of the illegal works on the site.

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Sr Annemarie is in her early twenties and was ordained in 2019 having moved to Ireland from New Zealand.

The women do not belong to any community connected to the Irish Catholic Church and are not affiliated with the Carmelite order as was previously reported

The Diocese of Cork and Ross previously indicated that the women entered into a schism and attribute their allegiance to an organisation which was established in Spain in the 1970’s and which is referred to as the Palmarian Church.

 

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