'Sustained' vandalism forces Offaly church to introduce opening times

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Sustained vandalism took place in the past year at St Catherine's

ONGOING vandalism at St Catherine's church and its new community garden in Hophill has forced the introduction of opening times there.

“From June 1, due to vandalism we are introducing opening times, from 8am to 4pm, and are in the process of installing monitored CCTV,” said the local Rector Rev. Canon Isaac Delamere

Canon Delamere said there has been an ongoing issue with vandalism and anti-social behaviour at the church for many years.

“It’s quiet location lends itself as a place where youths congregate. The churchwardens will testify that their role regularly involves the picking up of beer cans and slivers of glass from bottles that have been smashed on the tarmacadam. This came to a head in 2018 with the attack on St Catherine’s church when over 100 panes of glass were broken,” he added.

In order to protect the church, security cameras were installed and polycarbonate was placed on the windows.

Added the Rector: “In response to the overwhelming generosity of the community and as a way of saying thank you and seeking to continue to serve the community of Tullamore we decided to create a community garden to provide a space for people to pray and reflect and to connect with themselves, nature and ultimately with God.”

“ Both the garden and the church grounds are enjoyed by many people and indeed during lockdown many families brought their children there to play, for others it is a space to walk the dog, do some fitness training or to relax. We do apologise to these people for the inconvenience that these new opening times will cause but hope that people will understand why it has been so necessary for us to take this course of action.”

This garden project was largely made possible through Leader funding.

Canon Delamere speculated “some may have regarded the project as foolish but we are determined that we would keep loving in the face of adversity. I would never want us to stop loving.”

He said the last year has been very challenging as there has been sustained vandalism in the garden.

“Stones have been thrown causing considerable damage to the fountain, railings have been deliberately broken and flowers pulled up and thrown around. The intensity of the vandalism has made it impossible for the garden committee to finish the garden as all efforts are undone by vandalism.”

Canon Delamere said following discussions with the gardai and security experts it is intended to install a monitored CCTV system in the grounds of the church and the garden.

“This involves using our existing cameras and the purchase of additional equipment. The purchase of this equipment has been made possible by a generous donation from the dioceses which we have received to assist us.”

Canon Delamere added: “We do hope that this measure will stop the vandalism and that we can extend our opening times. Finally we would like to express our enormous thanks and appreciation to the gardai for their ongoing assistance and support.”

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