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Nun who broke planning laws to set up west Cork hermitage given until next summer to vacate premises

Two runs continue to live on the property.

Image: Shutterstock/Julija Ogrodowski

A REVEREND MOTHER of the Carmelite order who set up an illegal hermitage in West Cork has been given until next summer to source a new home after a court heard she had made a genuine effort to dismantle the site. 

Mother Irene Gibson appeared at Skibbereen District Court last December where she was found guilty of a breach of Section 154 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. The breach arose after she had established an illegal hermitage in Leap, Co Cork. 

Judge James McNulty had agreed to adjourn sentencing until last spring to allow Sister Irene to organise an alternative location for the hermitage she lives in with fellow nun, Sister Annemarie Loeman.

However, the case was subsequently adjourned arising out coronavirus restrictions. The case resumed at Skibbereen District Court today. 

Executive Planner with Cork County Council, Philip O’Sullivan told Judge NcNulty that he went to the hermitage at Corrin South in Leap on Monday. 

He found that the two nuns were still living there. However, they had closed off the entrance and reduced the number of structures on the site from seven to four.

They also had removed the oratory and a number of other structures. 

All that remains on site is three garden sheds and a container. 

Mother Irene said that she and Sister Annemarie are residing in two 8ft by 10ft garden sheds where they lead a quiet life of prayer and reflection. They use the third shed as a kitchen. 

Mother Irene told the court last year that they were planning to move to Youghal. However, she indicated today that the offer of accommodation had not materialised. 

Mother Irene stated that she was unable to get on the Cork County Council housing list as it was not in her power to furnish the necessary documents for such an application. 

The sisters have been trying to raise funds to purchase derelict property near their current base in Leap.

Mother Irene insisted that they wanted to stay near Leap as they attended a Latin or Tridentine Mass in the area. 

Judge McNulty said he understood that property prices in coastal areas such as West Cork might be outside the price range of the nuns. 

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He suggested that they might consider looking at moving to sparsely populated areas such as Leitrim or Mayo. 

Judge McNulty asked whether the Housing Department in Cork County Council might have a responsibility to the nuns, given the council was seeking to have their home taken away.  

Solicitor for Cork County Council, Margaret Noelle O’Sullivan said that the local authority had given the nuns a great deal of time to rectify the matter as the breach of planning was first notified to them four years ago. 

The local authority served an enforcement notice in July 2018. 

Judge McNulty adjourned the case until June of next year to give the nuns a further opportunity to find a new home. 

About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

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