Clare's conservation officer has come under fire after a councillor claimed his intervention cost the Catholic Church an additional €4.5 million in restoring a church in Kilrush.
At the council's January meeting, Tom Prendeville (FF) asked: "Is there no limit to the powers of the Conservation Office?" Mr Prendeville said conservation works at St Senan's Church in Kilrush were delayed for almost two years by the council's conservation officer Risteard Ua Croinín, resulting in the costs increasing from €1.5 million to €6 million.
He said: "I am reliably informed that even the Stations of the Cross, which were removed for conservation purposes before the works were carried out at St Senan's Church, later became the subject of a tête-a-tête between the local parish priest and the Conservation Office long after the project was completed."
In response, Mr Ua Croinín said it was "absolutely ludicrous" to suggest that he was responsible for delaying the project or adding to its cost.
Mr Ua Croinín said he actually helped to bring costs of the project down by holding numerous meetings with the church authorities in Kilrush and issuing declarations that allowed them to press ahead with works without the need for planning permission.
He said he advised the church not to lodge a planning application for additional works as they were inappropriate and would be refused.
"Planning permission was refused and An Bord Pleanála also refused planning permission for most of the works."
Mr Ua Croinín said he came across the Stations of the Cross in a function room.
He said: "They are valuable mid-19th century crosses and I said that they had to be removed from the room to avoid coffee or drink being spilt over them."
Mr Prendeville sought to dispute Mr Ua Croinín's claims. However, Clare mayor councillor Patricia McCarthy said the debate had ended.
The Irish Times