THE two women living in garden sheds near Leap who have raised almost €50,000 in an online fundraising effort have no connection with the Catholic Church or the Irish Carmelite Order.
The two, Mother Irene and Sister Anne Marie, launched a fundraising appeal after they were ordered by Cork County Council to find alternative accommodation and to leave the site where they have set up their religious retreat without planning permission.
The nuns say they are members of what they call the ‘Carmelite Order of the Holy Face’ and on their online appeal they plead: ‘We have not yet gathered sufficient funds to rebuild our life so we are really in need of your support.’
They include photos of what they describe as their ‘hermitage before Cork County Council destroyed our oratory and nuns quarters. We are now living in two tiny garden sheds, 10ftx8ft.’
They beg: ‘Help us financially by donating to our needs and may God reward you for your charity.’ They have described the Council’s decision to bring proceedings under the State’s planning laws as ‘the malicious work of Satan’.
However, a spokesperson for Bishop of Cork and Ross clarified that the women do not belong to any religious community which is in communion with the Catholic Church. He said they entered into a schism and ‘attribute their allegiance to an organisation which was established in Spain in the 1970s and which is referred to as the Palmarian Church.’
Although other media have referred to the nuns as ‘Carmelites’, a spokesperson for the Irish Carmelite Order in Ireland confirmed to The Southern Star that the nuns are not members of their order.
In court in September Judge James McNulty gave the two nuns until June 2021 to find alternative accommodation and to leave the site where they have set up their religious retreat in Leap, without planning permission.
Sister Irene Gibson was convicted in December 2019 of breaching the Planning and Development Act following an unauthorised development at a site at Corran, Leap.
Sister Irene set up a prayer retreat at the site in 2016 without planning permission, and was ordered by the court to return the site to its original state and to vacate it.
At Skibbereen District Court in September, Judge McNulty heard that while a number of buildings at the site had been removed, the two nuns were still in residence.
He adjourned the case until June 22nd 2021 and suggested the duo should consider relocating to a less expensive area, ‘like Leitrim or Mayo’.
On their YouTube page, they state: ‘On account of a few well-to-do, holiday home owners in the area of Corran South, Leap, Skibbereen, where we own 2.5 acres of land, the executive planner of Cork County Council in Ireland has maliciously “bent over backwards” to destroy both our hermitage, our reputation and to drive us from our home.’