Row over GAA seeking to buy church land draws in Healy-Raes

Mon, Feb 13, 2012, 00:00

A ROW in the village of Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, between the local GAA and the Catholic Church over the sale of a rundown local presbytery, is drawing in one of the county’s most famous political families.

The presbytery and 15.3 acres of grazing, some of it on sloped ground overlooking the village, is on the market with Killarney auctioneer and former Kerry footballer Tom Spillane. There are a number of bids and it has already exceeded the asking price of €230,000. Final offers are now sought.

A public meeting in Kilgarvan attended by 70 people called for the land to be sold to Kilgarvan GAA, which had offered €205,000 for the property. The GAA wants to secure the land to accommodate a second pitch and facilities.

A call was also made that were the GAA to buy it, at least one acre should go towards a community hall and playground and agricultural show facilities.

The company handling church property, St Brendan’s Trust, a registered charity, has rejected the plea to sell the land at a knockdown price for GAA facilities and said it was obliged to accept the market value for the property.

The church has stressed the money has to go towards the needs of the local faith community.

“It is both a moral and legal requirement that the diocese gets the best possible price for the property that the market can offer,” it said on the diocesan website.

Speculation has now shifted to just who is outbidding the GAA club and the spotlight is on the Healy-Rae family, who live locally.

Michael Healy-Rae is a TD for Kerry South, and his councillor brother Danny Healy-Rae, represents the Killarney area.

Danny’s son, councillor Johnny Healy-Rae, represents the Kenmare area and village.

A local publican, contractor and Independent Killarney area councillor, Danny Healy-Rae had initially declined to comment on the speculation which increased after his brother Michael told TG4 last week he believed Danny was interested in the land.

However, Danny Healy-Rae said: “I myself have no interest.”

Danny’s son, Johnny Healy-Rae, also a councillor, said the real urgency in the village was for a community hall and playground. “And the community would be very happy that whoever would buy the land would accommodate a hall and playground in an acre of ground.”

The existing Kilgarvan GAA grounds are on land adjoining the presbytery and were bought from the church in the 1970s. The GAA began its attempt to purchase extra land from the church five years ago.

The Kilgarvan club has 228 members and is one of the few south Kerry clubs with a strong hurling tradition. In football, however, it plays in division five of the county league.

There is some surprise that the small club would need or could afford a second pitch given the reality today of rural emigration.

However, chairman of Kilgarvan GAA club Tom Randles said: “We have heaps of people offering us money.”