One of two hermit women, who appeared in Skibbereen District Court on Tuesday without wearing masks, was fined €1,000 following a conviction for setting up a retreat in Leap, without planning permission.
Hermit Irene Gibson was convicted in December 2019 of breaching the Planning and Development Act following an unauthorised development at a site at Corran, Leap, where she and New Zealander Annemarie (Hannah) Loeman were living in what amounted to nothing more than garden sheds, without sanitation or running water.
At their last court appearance in September 2020 the women told Judge James McNulty that they wanted to stay near Leap as they attended a Latin ‘mass’ nearby every Sunday. Solicitor Margaret Noelle O’Sullivan, acting for Cork County Council, told the court that all the habitable structures at the site in Leap had now been removed, and all that remains is a wooden fence – a photo of which was given to Judge McNulty.
‘This fence is not offensive, it’s a nice fence and many a home would love to have it,’ Judge McNulty said.
‘Nature will take its course in time. If Cork County Council is offended by this fence they can take action,’ said the judge.
Irene Gibson told Judge McNulty that they had purchased an old house and were in the process of repairing and refurbishing the property.
‘We set up a fund and with the help of our benefactors we have purchased a property and that is the money we have in trust. I get €200 a week from the government,’ Ms Gibson said.
‘Does the refurbishment need planning permission?’ Judge McNulty asked.
Ms Gibson replied ‘no’.
Turning to penalty, Judge McNulty convicted and fined Irene Gibson €500 giving her 28 days to pay and also fined her €500 to be put towards the legal costs of Cork County Council.
The case was adjourned to July 27th to confirm payment of the fines.
Although other media have referred to the nuns as ‘Carmelites’, a spokesperson for Bishop of Cork and Ross confirmed to The Southern Star last year 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.’
Furthermore, a spokesperson for the Irish Carmelite Order in Ireland also confirmed that neither woman is a member of their order.
Earlier this year the women moved to a farmhouse on a 24-acre holding near Dunmanway which they have started to renovate. A crowdfunding page for the two ‘homeless’ women has raised €22,140 of their €29,000 goal. An earlier crowdfunding page, on a different site, which had raised over €77,000, has since been taken down.
It was also reported that the women broke Covid guidelines to attend an ‘exorcism of the Dáil’ in Dublin before Christmas.