A Catholic priest in Donegal has expressed “horror and embarrassment” that a Church of Ireland church that has been in Stranorlar Community Hospital for over 50 years is to be axed under plans for a new building.
Fr John Joe Duffy, of the Church of Mary the Immaculate in Stranorlar, contacted the News Letter to express his concerns.
The hospital has contained both Catholic and Church of Ireland churches for decades, he said, and a smaller Catholic facility is being retained in the new plans – but the Anglican chapel has been axed without consultation.
“I am very annoyed and very angry about it to be quite honest – that our friends in the other church would be treated in such a manner by a government agency of the sort that is there to serve the community,” Fr Duffy said.
A public consultation meeting with the Health Service Executive (HSE) was held on June 22 at the hospital, which was attended by Fr Duffy, Rev Adam Pullen and a range of other community stakeholders.
“However, the plans for the new building were too small to decipher, so I got a full copy of the plans from a third source about 10 days ago,” the priest said.
Fr Duffy said the Church of Ireland church in the hospital had been there for over 50 years – and that there had been a Protestant church on the site for around 150 years.
“There is embarrassment right across the Roman Catholic community that this should happen, because we work so well together and they are colleagues.”
Fr Duffy said the plans were publicly approved at government level several months ago.
HSE consulted with Catholic clergy and the action group about plans to reduce the size of the Catholic chapel by two-thirds, but there was “absolutely no consultation” with reformed clergy about the closure of the Church of Ireland church, which is to be replaced by a day room, he said.
Church of Ireland members are also concerned about what will become of a stained glass window in the hospital church, which was donated by Donegal resident Lady Hayes.
Fr Duffy said that HSE released a statement to Highland Radio yesterday stating that the plans had only been “a discussion document”.
“They are now running for cover as they have made a colossal mistake. HSE officials were previously heard to say the CoI church was not being used.”
Rev Adam Pullen said the HSE had informally told him the same thing.
He said: “The hospital has about 18 long-term Protestant parishioners and I would hold regular services for them there. I am upset that they did not consult us and that this would be done to some of the most vulnerable and most needy people.”
The HSE had not offered any comment.