THE HEALTH Service Executive has been forced to revisit a decision to remove a religious statue from the facade of a Kerry hospital last year, following a ruling this week by An Bord Pleanála.
The board ruled that the removal of the statue was not an “exempted development”, and would require planning permission.
A war of words erupted in March 2010 when the statue, which had been in situ at the landmark Killarney Community Hospital for more than 70 years, was taken down.
It was later relocated to the grounds of the hospital by the HSE but a vociferous campaign, led by mayor of Killarney Cllr Donal Grady, to have the statue returned to its original resting place has this week seen the planning appeals board step into the row.
Killarney Town Council decided in January that the removal of the statue was an “exempted development” that would not require planning permission. This decision was referred to An Bord Pleanála by Mr Grady and the board overturned it.
The HSE had argued that the statue was removed for health and safety reasons, and told the board that, as it was mounted on the flat-roof structure, it did not alter the character of the building structure.
In its ruling, however, the board said the statue constituted a prominent element in the external appearance of Killarney Community Hospital and contributed significantly to the character of the structure.
It also ruled that the removal of the statue materially affects the structure so as “to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure”.
The decision has been welcomed by the mayor: “I always felt it was taken down wrongfully, and that it would have needed planning.
“I always felt they were taking away a part of the history of the town. The ball is in their court now. If I were them, I would put back the statue.”