A WEST Cork nun who believes she was harshly prosecuted by Cork County Council for planning breaches, said she now has no choice but to relocate to a donated ‘fixer-upper’ in East Cork.
At Skibbereen Court on Tuesday, after respectfully asking that their Child of Prague statue (being carried by the nun) be removed from the court, Judge James McNulty told the accused, Mother Irene Gibson, that she was not unfairly treated by the Council.
He said the local authority has a duty to put a stop to unauthorised development and he convicted her of being in breach of an enforcement order served on her by Cork County Council on July 24th 2018, but he adjourned the implementation of penalty to April 28th.
Judge McNulty refused to allow Sr Anne Marie – the only other member of the Carmelite Order of The Holy Face, based at Corran South in Leap, to act on behalf of Mother Irene, because Sr Anne Marie was not charged with any offence. But he did allow her to give evidence as a witness, and to assist Mother Irene in a technical defence.
Sr Anne Marie claimed that the bulk of the work done at the site – the building of seven wooden cells and the placing of a temporary, wooden oratory on a concrete base – was ‘exempted development.’
Referring to the Council’s own Planning and Development Regulations 2001, she argued that planning permission is not needed for ‘temporary on-site accommodation’ for people working on a site.
She said their 8ft by 10ft wooden cells have no electricity, running water, flush toilets, showers and no phone, and it would ‘take a great imagination or an unreasonable ill-will for anyone to consider these sheds as anything but temporary accommodation’.
Mother Irene said these cells were in keeping with their intention of living ‘a simple and frugal life’ and without them they would be ‘homeless’.
Sr Anne Marie accused the Council of being ‘vindictive and petty tyrants’ to such an extent that the nuns have decided to cut their €75,000 losses and ‘move on.’
Patricia Murphy, solicitor for the Council, pointed out that regardless of pre-planning meetings, lengthy correspondence, site visits, and the Council’s refusal of ‘retention’, the nuns – instead of ceasing development – actually accelerated it, and were guilty of six planning violations, namely: the creation of unauthorised access; a large wooden shed; seven pods or cells; an inappropriate fence and signage; a large concrete base for two structures; and a flat-roofed two-storey structure.
The nuns submitted that there are now just three cells – two for habitation and one kitchen – as well as a red, storage shed, containing all their worldly possessions, but the structures will be gone before the two women relocate to East Cork next April.