Mosque scheme in Kilkenny heading way of planning board

Contentious two-storey religious and cultural centre meets stiff opposition from locals

A copy of the Koran in a mosque. Trustees of the Kilkenny Islamic Centre have applied for planning permission for a religious and cultural centre. Photograph: Getty Images

A copy of the Koran in a mosque. Trustees of the Kilkenny Islamic Centre have applied for planning permission for a religious and cultural centre. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A controversial proposal to build a mosque and cultural centre on a site near the edge of Kilkenny city is likely to end up before An Bórd Pleanála, regardless of what decision the local council makes.

Trustees of the Kilkenny Islamic Centre have applied to Kilkenny County Council for planning permission for a two-storey religious and cultural centre at the Hebron Industrial Estate but the plan has met with significant opposition locally, with one objector collecting 1,035 signatures against the idea.

The deadline for submissions on the application has passed and 40 have been lodged with the council, most of them opposing the project. This follows a public meeting marked by angry scenes and concerns raised about the plan.

The Green Party’s former mayor of Kilkenny Cllr Malcolm Noonan said at the weekend the “hate speech” voiced in recent weeks in relation to the proposal came from “a small number of people, most of whom have no connection to Kilkenny, nor are affected by the proposed mosque”.

He said he would be supportive of the application “if it meets the planning requirements”.

Cllr Noonan attended an open inter-cultural day hosted by the Kilkenny Islamic Centre last Friday and described it as “uplifting”.

Among the attendees was Church of Ireland Bishop of Ossory Michael Burrows. Cllr Noonan said they have agreed to hold “further faith initiatives” in the area to promote understanding.

“For those who sought to divide our community over this, it’s had the opposite effect by bringing us closer together.”

O’Louglin Gaels

Among the many submissions made on the plan is one by the O’Loughlin Gaels GAA Club.

Club chairman Brian Murphy, himself a former inter-county hurler with Cork, said the submission was purely on traffic grounds. The site for the proposed mosque and cultural centre is close to the O’Loughlin Gaels complex.

“We haven’t lodged an objection,” he told said. “We made a submission about the traffic . . . Our facilities are used by an awful lot of people, there’s a lot of traffic. There’s congestion at our main entrance a lot of the time.”

One of the most vociferous objectors, former election candidate Eugene McGuinness, a brother of Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, said he collected 1,035 signatures from people living in the area near the site.

“This is a very emotive issue, with religion and all involved,” he said, adding that “99 percent of people in the area don’t want that development”.

Traffic can be stuck for an hour in the area on days of big games in nearby Nowlan Park, said Mr McGuinness. “Now they want to compound that . . . by adding 200 cars.”

He denied his objection had any racist or sectarian motive. “There’s no issue in relation to religion. I said to the Imam on the night of that meeting that I would actively help him to find a suitable place.”

His brother, John McGuinness TD, said he is not taking either side of the debate but did facilitate people with the planning process.

A decision is possible in June but the council planners may seek further information in the meantime.