A Donegal Church of Ireland rector says floor plans for a hospital renovation confirms his understanding that the Irish health service was planning to close the Anglican chapel without consultation.
Rev Adam Pullen of St Mary’s Church of Ireland church in Stranorlar was speaking after his supporter, Catholic priest Fr John Joe Duffy, contacted the News Letter last week to express “horror” that the Church of Ireland (CoI) chapel that has been in Stranorlar Community Hospital for over 50 years is to be axed. A Catholic chapel is to be retained.
Rev Pullen has now supplied the News Letter with images of the current and future layout. The Health Service Executive (HSE) says the plans are “not definite”. Fr Duffy said the HSE had failed to supply the clerics with detailed copies of the plans and that he had to procure them from a third party.
Rev Pullen told the News Letter that the plans accurately illustrated what had been reported about the loss of the CoI chapel.
“There is no church of Ireland chapel in them, instead it has been converted into a day room of almost exactly the same size,” he said.
After the story initially broke in local Donegal media two weeks ago, the HSE claimed the chapel was only to be moved. But Rev Pullen says there is no evidence of a Church of Ireland chapel anywhere else in the new plans.
“The HSE has since told the media the plans were a high level discussion document, but they had obviously been in open consultation with the Catholic church for 18 months previously.
“At a public meeting in June that I attended with Fr Duffy, they told us they were reducing the Catholic chapel but there was no mention of removing the Church of Ireland chapel. And they said these were the final plans.”
Copies of the plans were sent out to TDs and the media, but those images were too small to decipher, he said.
“The HSE has still not been in touch with me on this apart from one quick informal phone call on Thursday [August 31],” he said.
Rev Pullen holds a service for around a dozen long term Anglican residents there once a month.
Prayer services are held in the chapel before the remains of Anglicans are removed from the hospital. It is also used by other visiting Protestant clergy to pray with their parishioners.
Fr Duffy said: “The HSE is sending out some very worrying signals. Myself, my congregation and people right across the county are very angry about this.
“HSE says the CoI chapel is to be relocated, but that is just an afterthought. There has still been no official contact with Rev Pullen despite this breaking in the media well over a week ago.”
The Irish health service has declined to explain why there is no Church of Ireland chapel in floor plans for the renovated Donegal hospital – despite claiming it is being “relocated”.
In a statement of September 5, the HSE said there is “no question of downgrading or eliminating access to religious facilities” and that the proposal is to “relocate” the chapel at Stranorlar hospital.
However the leaked floor plan show no Anglican chapel at all - relocated or otherwise.
HSE confirmed on Monday that the plans acquired by Rev Pullen are “part of the review report (preliminary feasibility study) that was completed by Rhatigan Architects”.
It added: “They are not definite plans. The HSE will consult with all residents, their families and relevant churches when definite plans are being drawn up.”
However Rev Pullen says the plans – which the HSE told him were final in June – do not show any relocated Church of Ireland chapel.
He said he was still not confident that the issue had been resolved as the HSE has not officially contacted him, the only contact having been a brief informal phone call.