The Department of Defence are set to return the bell that was removed from the garrison church at Kickham Barracks without proper consultation with Clonmel Borough Council. The issue was raised at last month’s meeting of the council when councillors expressed their unease that the bell, which is part of a protected structure on the grounds of the barracks was removed by the Department without following correct planning procedure. However the Department may apply to have the bell removed again if it wishes to do so.
Town clerk Ger Walsh wrote to the property division of the Department informing them that they should not remove any monuments or structures from Kickham Barracks without the permission of the council, and requested that the bell be returned to them. He said that according to the Department, the bell was removed and transferred to Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick because structural repair work needs to be carried out on the bell-cote, the arched structure in which the bell is housed.
Mr. Walsh received written confirmation of the bell’s return to Clonmel this week, while defence minister Alan Shatter confirmed last week that arrangements are being made to return the bell to the church which was deconsecrated prior to the closure of the barracks. In response to a parliamentary question from South Tipperary independent TD Seamus Healy who quizzed him on the current location of the bell, Deputy Shatter said the bell, which was considered to be a religious item, was removed to Sarsfield Barracks but following a review of the matter, arrangements are now being made to relocate the bell back to the church.
Mr. Walsh said that the bell has as much significance as any of the other monuments in Kickham Barracks and added that it has symbolic and historic significance to Clonmel. “Whatever happens to the Church, the bell should stay in it, it looks empty without it,” he said. He said that the structural repair of the bell-cote still has to be carried out but is satisfied that the bell will be returned to them.
Clonmel town manager Sinead Carr said that certain procedures that must be followed when dealing with protected structures were not adhered to by the Department of Defence. The intention to remove the bell should have been conmmunicated to the Council through a statutory declaration under Section 57 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Ms. Carr explained that while the Department may return the bell, they can then apply to the Council to have it removed again.
In relation to the future of the ten acre Kickham Barracks site, Ms Carr said that a meeting between council officials, members of the Department of Defence and potential local stakeholderss who have an interest in the site, was held recently. She said that they are anxious to work with potential interested parties to draw up a framework document that will outline how best to use the site and she hopes to meet with the Department at the end of May to present this framework document to them.
“This is a significant site in the town and we want to maximise the value of it and preventing the sale of small parts of the site. There have been a number of suggested uses in the areas of enterprise, community and education,” she said.
According to her, the Department of Defence do not have any plans for the site. “I would be amazed if they did at this stage,” she said.