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Convent branded ‘an absolute public disgrace’



Liamy MacNally

Retired priest, Rev Tony King, told parishioners of St Mary’s Church, Westport on Sunday, that they consider boycotting the next local elections unless restoration work is completed on the old Westport Convent of Mercy.
Fr King paid tribute to the ‘quite revolution’ the Sisters of Mercy and Christian Brothers brought to Westport over 150 years ago and to generations of families since then.
“It saddens me deeply to view the present scene – a place that opened doors and opportunities in education for thousands of young people. The state of the place is an absolute public disgrace. It stands as a memorial to amnesia and a monument of neglect,” said Fr King at Sunday Mass in St Mary’s Church.
Fr King said that he ‘received no written acknowledgement’ after writing to the council administration and local public representatives in January 2021 expressing his views.
“Over the past nine years I have read in The Mayo News reports and plans on at least three occasions. These reports now appear to be balls of smoke – to cover the inertia of a frozen administration and to appease the people of Westport.”

He added: “I now suggest for your consideration that the next local elections be boycotted unless the restoration work on that site is completed and also that a political guarantee is given that Westport Urban Council be restored as a statutory body.”
Westport Convent was acquired by Mayo County Council for municipal offices in 2008 following the departure of the Sisters of Mercy. Since then, the Convent and the adjacent Scoil Phádraig have been derelict with many of the buildings and out-buildings vandalised.
Over €9 million has been allocated for the relocation of Westport Public Library to the site of the old Scoil Phádraig and the provision of a multi-use community facility. Work has not started on this project.  The relocation of Holy Trinity National School from the Newport Road to the Convent site has also been announced.   
A recent statement from Mayo County Council said plans to construct 25 affordable housing units on the site have been scrapped because the project is too costly.  
Fr Tony King was based in Westport from 1970 to 1993 when he was appointed Parish Priest in Athenry. He retired back to Westport in 2013. Since then he has authored two books on Westport parish life. ‘Steps to the Summit’ is a record of all local women and men who became sisters, brothers and priests. ‘Turning the Tide’ is the story of Dean Bernard Burke, Westport’s last locally-based parish priest, who died in 1861.