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Leap nuns admit their ‘hermit huts' had no planning

May 20th, 2019 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Sr Anne Marie and Mother Irene of the Holy Face community in Leap. Sr Irene was in court this week to answer a charge referring to a breach of planning laws regarding their residences at Corran, Leap.

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THE head of an order of nuns in Leap has been prosecuted by Cork County Council for being in breach of planning.

Mother Irene Gibson failed to comply with a planning notice that was served on her at Corran South in Leap on July 24th 2018, executive planner Philip O’Sullivan of Cork County Council told a court on Tuesday.

In evidence at Skibbereen District Court, he said: ‘Four complaints from eminent people living close-by’ had been lodged with the Council.

The complaints were lodged by people with addresses in Castletownbere, Midleton, Ovens and Maryborough Hill in Cork city.

Patricia Murphy, the Council’s solicitor, said the Carmelites of the Holy Face had erected, without permission, a two-storey storage and residential structure and a timber oratory, as well as several hermit huts.

The solicitor said there was also strong objections to the site entrance, because it offered no sight-line in either direction.

But Letty Baker, the solicitor acting for Mother Irene, appealed to Judge James McNulty for leniency, saying: ‘They have nowhere else to go.’

She asked the judge for a lengthy adjournment, which would give the sisters time to sell their container-like structures and she suggested that would be ‘a remedy for everything.’

Ms Baker said her client – as well as Sr Anne Marie who took her first vows just the day before – were planning to move on.

She suggested that it would be ‘dreadful if this lady was prosecuted’ and Judge James McNulty acknowledged that they are ‘in retreat’.

Patricia Murphy objected to a lengthy adjournment, saying: ‘The planning legislation must be implemented in a uniform manner.’

Judge McNulty agreed to an adjournment to November 26th for hearing, but Ms Murphy who is to be married around then, and will be off duty, agreed to the case being put into the December 10th sitting.

In the meantime, Judge McNulty suggested that ‘one of the country’s religious orders who had spent so long acquiring property’ but may now be disposing of it – might find a small bolthole for the sisters, and perhaps a building for the West Cork Women Against Violence organisation as well.

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