“harsh and craggy pile of Scottish-Tudor stone”

Members of the Presbyterian Mutual Society probably have other things on their minds right now, but the not-completely-independent Northern Ireland Environment Agency has awarded the “single biggest grant award ever given under the Historic Buildings Grant Aid Scheme for repairs to listed buildings” to Church House in Belfast’s Fisherwick Place, the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, originally built in 1905, renovated in 1992 – Church awarded £1million to repair HQ. Meanwhile, the 12th Century Athassel Abbey in County Tipperary, listed as one of the 100 most endangered world cultural heritage sites in 2004, now has a conservation plan commissioned by the Republic of Ireland’s Office of Public Works (OPW).. but it’s reported that junior minister Martin Mansergh has warned that limited finances may dictate the pace of work..

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  • The Raven

    In reference to Dr Mansergh’s comments…

    It’s funny how when times are good, public works like this are always bottom of the pile, so to speak.

    And here we are in “less good” times, and something which could be locally important in developing skills and shoring up specialists in the field of construction, ends up (for some of the work) being “a goal to attain”.

    Just an observation. Though overall, both the grant to Fisherwich, and the conservation plan for the Abbey are to be welcomed in a country that doesn’t take its built heritage as anything appraoaching serious.

  • Fair Play

    I look forward to the Minister giving Clonard Monastery some money to help their conservation plan.

  • William

    The once was a guy who always moaned about not winning the factory lottery – the chap who organised it asked him to meet him half-way – BY BUYING A TICKET !

    Likewise, Clonard Monastry should meet the Minister half-way, by making an application !!!

  • Fair Play

    “Likewise, Clonard Monastry should meet the Minister half-way, by making an application !!!”

    An application was made. Presumably it’s got stuck in the same black hole as the applicaiton to the Culture Minister for a reception for the 2008 AI football champions.

  • The Raven

    Fair Play, to whom was the application made? Heritage Lottery or the Agency? I ask out of interest, and not the same intentions that William may have.


    I warmly welcome this donation as Church House is a very distinctive building worth restoring. We must do all we can to preserve our rich heritage and show off our fine buildings, especially our religious buildings. Likewise the decision to channel the area around St. Anne’s Church Of Ireland as Cathedral quarter is also to be applauded although the jury is still out on the spire. However Belfast is a city of shared religions and parity of esteem seems to be lacking towards the Catholic faith. At the lower end of Donegall Street everything is being done to show off St. Anne’s while in Upper Donegall St. planning permission was given for 200 apartments to hide and obscure St. Patrick’s Catholic Church which was a landmark. Likewise St. Mary’s Chapel Lane could do with a refit and better lighting in the city centre. Fair enough St. Malachy’s in the Markets is being restored but more has to be done to show that Belfast has as many Catholics as other faiths and at the present this is not the case. Furthermore ALL of the signs in and around the City Hall, Council and city centre are Protestant Unionist symbols. What is there for the Irish Nationalist community? Pretty much NOTHING and that is solely down to the two weak parties that represent the Catholic community in Belfast, the SDLP & Sinn Fein. They are poor representatives.

  • finches

    This and the whole debacle over the Presbyterian Mutual Society does indeed prove that Stormont is becoming a ‘Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people’. Meanwhile our ancient abbeys and monasteries (the educational hot-spots of medieval Europe), now under the proprietorship of a hostile plundering Protestant church, are lying in delapilated ruins. Bring back direct rule!

  • DK

    Lurig and finches – is this really a good topic to try and start a sectarian squabble?

  • The Raven

    Ok, so we managed to twist this theme into a them-and-us bag of shite.

    There’s a piece by Terri Hooley on the Beeb’s site today here. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7797071.stm

    Anyone want to pick that up and run with it?

  • William

    FAIR PLAY wrote: ‘An application was made. Presumably it’s got stuck in the same black hole as the applicaiton [sic] to the Culture Minister for a reception for the 2008 AI [sic] football champions’.

    As one who deals with the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency on a regular basis, I know it is not the Minister who makes the decisions, it is the staff…on this occasion he merely announced this award as it was the largest given out so far… The fund only opened recently so, Clonard and all those other old buildings will, if their Church authorities / Trustees, make application. Furthermore, there is the Heritage Lottery funding for old buildings, which isn’t open to the Presbyterian Church as they will not make application to funds obtained from gambling. However, the RC church authorities have that fund to apply to and many of their churches have had £m over the 14 years the Lottery has been in existence. As to the Tyrone GAA folk…..why do they need a Stormont reception….that should be confined to major international events, e.g. Olympic champions etc…not domestic competition winners….

    The Raven wrote: Fair Play, to whom was the application made? Heritage Lottery or the Agency? I ask out of interest, and not the same intentions that William may have.

    Raven….How dare you question what my intentions are…you haven’t a clue….my intentions were to ask was an application made, as within my work in the Community sector, I have often heard it said in respect of funding, that ‘we get nothing, they get everything’ and on enquiry find that ‘we’ didn’t apply. So an apology from you would be appreciated !!

  • pauljames

    While little of the grandeur of Edwardian Belfast remains, due in large part to the greed of developers and the lack of political will, any effort to preserve our heritage must be applauded. However surely the Presbyterian or Catholic Churches have sufficient funds and a desire to maintain their own fiefdoms. Should public monies not be spent on more inclusive projects which do not involve hideous sectarian point scoring eg North Street Arcade, which would also cheer up Terri.

  • Turgon

    Although preserving the outside of Chruch House is a noble aim the inside was utterly gutted and remade in a particularly uninspiring fashion some 15 years ago. The beautiful central bit with double galleries was destroyed. In the process no air conditioning was put in and the offices are now stifling in the summer.

    Large sums of money were obtained from the ordinary people in the pew for this.

    I remember being in Church House at a missionary meeting when I was a student. My friend and I were looking at the new building an a middle aged woman asked me what I thought. I told her that I was disgusted that the shopping mall below contained Carter (then and still one of the most expensive shops in Belfast) where people like me (then and now) get viewed with distain by the shop assistants. I suggested that someone should go in with a whip and drive out the shop and its worship of money and instead there should be charity shops. I also suggested that if that happened the police would arrest such a person yet it seemed to have a precedent in Jerusalem.

    The woman in question seemed horrified and said that charity shops would soon be taking over the mall. I am still waiting. Incidentally unknown to me the woman was John Dunlop’s (one of the champions of the scheme’s) wife.

    A few years ago there was a proposal to sell church house and move the Presbyterian headquaters to a smaller less grandiose place outside the centre of Belfast where people could park etc. That was rejected: I am left wondering if the Presbyterian Church is clinging to its buildings whlist its members are leaving.

  • pauljames

    Ah yes Turgon, the evils of commerce especially moneylenders. Nice of Church House to allow the Presbyteran Mutual Society the run of the building though.

  • jone

    So Turgon hasn’t been in the shop up the other end of the mall to peruse the Ferragamo shoes?

    Anyway if you get intimidated by shop assistants maybe you should just man-up?

  • The Raven

    William, after some of the diatribe that you have spilled in here as an excuse for “contributing”, you’ll get no apology from me. Having read some of the stuff you have posted on other threads, it would be perfectly natural to assume that you were heading into whataboutery.

    Pauljames, I think all of us would love to see North Street Arcade back the way it was.

    I feel lucky that I managed to document it photographically before that fire. It would have been a perfect arts centre of some sort – the style and nature of the units would have been excellent as both exhibition and commercial space.

  • pauljames

    Any chance those photos are on flickr or similar? I would appreciate a link.

  • The Raven

    Pauljames – no not yet! But there are plenty of pics on Flickr of the arcade in all its faded glory, not to mention a couple from after the fact.

    Or deed.


  • darth rumsfeld

    turgon is right about the last “uninspired” (ahem)restoration. I well recall the General Assembly in 2007 when there was a clear dichotomy between the Belfast middle class presbyterians- who talked a lot of money- and the country gulpins like me who thought the church should be keeping a visible presence in the city centre and damn the cost. There is little worse than a smug social Presbyterian- think Ken Newell without the spirituality

    “Nice of Church House to allow the Presbyteran Mutual Society the run of the building though.”
    .. only they don’t. The PMS operate out of Glengall Exchange. And as one who was badly stung by the administration I so appreciate the sympathy for those of us who thought putting our money into a scheme to help churches and co-religionists was a good idea. The scheme was one similar to credit unions, and of course paul would have similar sneering for them-assuming he’s not motivated by sectrarianism…er…

    “There’s a piece by Terri Hooley on the Beeb’s site today here.
    Anyone want to pick that up and run with it?”

    I’d love to. As a yoof I was one of the middle class punks who bought strange 7″ round plastic grooved discs from a one eyed hippy in his tatty shop on Great Victoria Street.Occasionally we’d meet the likes of Jake Burns or Belfast’s greatest band-Rudi-pretending not to be stars. It was a marvellous place

  • pauljames
  • Glencoppagagh

    This is irrelevant. Institutions hold their AGMs in suitable premises which are often far away from their corporate headquarters. Public companies frequently hire halls or hotels for the purpose depending on anticipated attendance.

  • pauljames

    Sorry if you guys have been burned, but my original reply was in the context of Turgon running amok through Carter with a whip while the PMS conducted business (of whatever sort) upstairs.
    Have a good one