Invisible heritage


Sir, – A couple of months back, while researching a book project I’m undertaking, I drove to Rathfarnham village in Dublin with a view to visiting the old cemetery and early Christian church.

Having ascertained that the key to access the cemetery could be found with council employees across in the grounds of Rathfarnham Castle, a council employee accompanied me to the churchyard. What a disappointment!

Despite signage erected in recent decades explaining the history of the church, the church itself couldn’t be seen for the overgrowth, mostly ivy as well as general shrubbery and knee-high grass. So, having wished to photograph the architecture of the building, I went away disappointed.

Again, a couple of weeks ago, for the same project, I visited Old Connaught early Christian church near Bray, which is in the “care” of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council for it was their sign which was displayed on the locked gate. I climbed easily over the wall and in to grass and weeds which had spread profusely thanks to zero maintenance on behalf of the council. Again, the church itself was only partially visible on account of overgrowth and not worth photographing features which couldn’t be seen.

In addition to these examples, there are many others in the locality. The Gothic stone arch located close to Spawell in Templeogue and associated with the original city watercourse located nearby was also shrouded in ivy when I went to photograph it last year. The tiny early Christian church at Ballyman close to the Dublin-Wicklow border is in danger of collapsing completely on account of a tree protruding from its walls. I’ve no doubt either that this scenario is replicated around the country. There seems to me to be a laissez-faire attitude involved here on behalf of the relevant county council as well as the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht whose National Monuments Service has a duty in this area.

Conservation and subsequent public access to heritage are deemed to be far down the pecking order of priorities when county councils are considering how to spend their allotted funding.

The most galling thing about all of this is that clearance of ivy and shrubbery doesn’t cost big money. Central Government could easily initiate council-run schemes whereby the unemployed, those inactive but eager to participate in civic society and the retired but fit could easily work on such heritage projects. As is often the case, however, no will, motivation or interest at Government level informs this. As for Dún Laoghaire Rathdown and South Dublin, I could mention the grandiose schemes for money-spinning which both councils have proven themselves adept at. It’s another example of the old adage that “Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan”! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.