THE HSE has confirmed it is preparing an application to Killarney Town Council’s planning department for permission to retain a large statue of the Sacred Heart alongside Killarney Community Hospital.
This could see it head for direct confrontation with the council.
The council’s nine elected members, along with local community groups and individuals, want the statue replaced on the roof over the door of the hospital — where it had been until March 2010, when it was suddenly removed.
This weekend Cllr Donal Grady, a leading campaigner to have the statue restored, said he and others were eagerly awaiting the HSE application — so that they could lodge objections.
Uproar surrounded the unexpected removal of the landmark red and white statue 18 months ago, with the council, Bishop of Kerry William Murphy, local community groups and even members of the town’s other religious communities joining in the criticism.
Hospital management said at the time they were forced to remove the statue from over the door of the hospital on the grounds of health and safety.
Cllr Grady demanded to see the engineer’s report setting out the health risks that the statue posed to visitors and patients.
In what was felt to be a compromise, the HSE placed it alongside the hospital.
But Cllr Grady, the then mayor, wanted it replaced.
He asked his own town council’s planning department to rule that it needed planning.
However, when Killarney Town Council ruled the HSE did not need planning to move the statue off the rook of the 1939 hospital, Cllr Grady referred the question to An Bord Pleanála.
Last June the board overturned the council’s opinion, saying it had considered "the historic character of the structure" and the origins of the statue.
Built by the Mercy nuns for the people of the town, the hospital opened in September 1939.
The large statue was later placed on the flat roof of the building, although no one seems to know exactly when.
Cllr Grady said the whole council would object to retaining the statue in its new location and he expects a flood of objections to the HSE proposal.
The HSE said it had engaged with an architect in relation to development matters at Killarney Community Hospital and that it is in ongoing communication with Killarney Town Council’s planning department.
Arising from these consultations, the HSE propose to submit a planning application for the retention of the existing development, and for permission for further sympathetic development around the main entrance.
The HSE intends to submit this application before the end of this month