Taking a stand for Westport’s heritage

De Facto

QUIET REFLECTION Monish Philip Mathew from Kerala, India, prays at the summit of Croagh Patrick on the traditional pilgrimage day, Reek Sunday. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin

Controversy and the canal, the convent and Croagh Patrick

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

There is a shift, gentle as it may be, in Westport society of late. Volunteers have taken up the slack of several statutory bodies that declined to take responsibility for the upkeep of the Carrowbeg River through our town. Local people cleaned the river over the space of several weeks.
The work has highlighted the need for serious repair work on the walls that support the canalised section of the river through the Malls and onto St Mary’s Crescent and the Demesne. Who will fill in this blank? It will cost money and take time.
Logic will play its part – the longer the work is left undone the dearer the work will become because more work will need to be carried out. Unfortunately, logic and statutory bodies often don’t make good bedfellows.
Last week, Fr Tony King expressed his concern over the ongoing lack of work on the convent site. Fr King’s call for a local-election boycott to be considered as a protest until development work is done met with opposition from some councillors. They didn’t oppose his call for Westport Town Council to be restored as a statutory body for the town.
There has been no positive input from Mayo County Council to this heritage site since they acquired it from the Sisters of Mercy in 2008. Cllr Peter Flynn challenged the Director of Services, Catherine McConnell, over the lack of action by the council. For 14 years, nothing has been done, much has been undone.
The beauty of the buildings and outbuildings has been badly damaged by testosterone-fuelled young fellows happy to fill the vacuum created by Mayo County Council. How much longer does the council need? It’s past time to safeguard a building that is not only a protected structure but also part of the spiritual and educational heritage of Westport. Is the council waiting for local volunteers to take over the building?
Yet, Mayo County Council responded most positively to a request by Cllr Christy Hyland to clean-up the weeds from the Octagon monument. The job was done, respectfully and very professionally.   
Councillors will soon be inundated with calls from business people to examine the increase they face in rates. The Government Valuation Office has deemed it fit to impose increases of more than 500 percent on some premises. Businesses are absorbing huge utility price increases (with corresponding VAT increases for the Government). You’d wonder who thinks this stuff up! How daft can it get? There must be a Minister for Stupid Ideas lurking somewhere.
Another strand of stupidity will hit us in a couple of weeks as thousands of runners traipse up Croagh Patrick as part of an adventure race. Even now, in this post-Christian period, there is still no excuse for a lack of respect for our religious heritage and culture. Using Croagh Patrick again for such adventure races is not only ludicrous but insulting.
It would be more fitting to ensure that carpark charges support adequate toilet facilities for pilgrims rather than catering for hordes of runners, many of whom see it as another race day.
Why did we ever bother to gather people together and ensure that a safe mountain path be constructed? What is the point of workers and volunteers slogging, often in inclement weather, if the path they are constructing will facilitate what in many countries would be termed desecration?
Croagh Patrick is a sacred mountain and has been for Christians for over 1,500 years. Before that it harboured a sanctuary for our druidic ancestry. Now it’s being used to make money. Why is this happening again? So many people thought such days were finally over.
Is there no other mountain that could be used? Why not use Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connacht? It’s close enough.
Fr Angelus, OFM, (after whom Fr Angelus Park is named), wrote almost 80 years ago: “Croagh Patrick, the Sinai of Ireland, was never profaned, and has come down to us as a grand inheritance, a national shrine… to walk where Patrick walked, to kneel where Patrick knelt, to pray where Patrick prayed.”
There is growing disquiet over the resumption of adventure races. It’s time to stop.