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Funding for excavation works at abbey welcomed


Áine Ryan

A €2 million-plus renovation and development project for Ballintubber Abbey, which will ensure its status as an international pilgrim path hub, has taken a step forward with the granting of LEADER monies for essential archaeological excavation works. Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring’s approval on Friday last of €101,380 for the works has been welcomed by the abbey’s longtime priest, Father Frank Fahey.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Fr Fahey said: “This is the final plank in the steps we needed to take before the serious fundraising begins for the redevelopment of the east wing as a Pilgrim Visitor and Educational Centre. Clár funding received earlier this year, in the aftermath of having been granted planning permission, will cover the detailed design statement necessary for this ambitious project.
“The completion of the whole project will cost between €2 and €3m, so the serious fundraising will begin next spring after the completion of the archaeological investigation, due to commence on February 19. We hope to qualify for funds then from Fáilte Ireland and the Mayo Foundation, as well as raise monies through private donations,” Fr Fahey explained.     

National monument
In a statement by Minister Ring, he said: “Ballintubber Abbey is a national monument of international significance. The development of the abbey is dependent on careful archaeological excavation work to preserve the integrity of the abbey while at the same time preparing for its long term sustainability. Ballintubber Abbey Trust has invested substantial sums in getting the project to this stage and I am delighted to be able to support their efforts by approving this funding.
“Ballintubber Abbey is already one of the top tourism attractions in County Mayo and the restoration of the east wing, together with the further development of pilgrim trails in Ireland, has the potential to substantially increase visitor numbers to the abbey and the surrounding areas of County Mayo. I know that there are exciting plans for the future of the abbey and I am pleased that this funding will bring those plans a step closer to being realised,” he continued.
With Ireland one of the most popular pilgrim destinations in Europe and more than 1.5 million tourists visiting annually such pilgrimage sites as Knock Shrine, Glendalough, Co Wicklow, the island retreat of Lough Derg, Co Donegal, as well as Mayo’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick, the tourism potential of pilgrimage is huge.  
For decades Father Fahey has been a champion of the significance of the Tóchar Phádraig pilgrim path, its inherent connection to Croagh Patrick and its surrounding ancient landscape replete with important artefacts.
“The notion of pilgrimage as a human concept resonates with all nations and peoples. There is something in the human heart – in every tradition and religion – that searches for meaning and wholeness,” he said.   

Christmas at the Abbey
The Mayo Male Voice Choir are performing Christmas Carols in Ballintubber Abbey on this Wednesday, December 20 at 8pm. Donations on the door. The Christmas Gifts Abbey Shop is also open and has some lovely little gift items in the shop including Angels, Christmas Snow Globes, Candles and a selection of Christmas Cards.

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