​Churches unite to defend Newry Cathedral

United outside Newry Cathedral are (left to right) Church of Ireland Rector Canon Scott McDonald, Newry Cathedral Parish Administrator Canon Francis Brown and Rev Louise Donald of the Methodist Churches of Newry, Bessbrook and Warrenpoint (Photo: Columba O’Hare)United outside Newry Cathedral are (left to right) Church of Ireland Rector Canon Scott McDonald, Newry Cathedral Parish Administrator Canon Francis Brown and Rev Louise Donald of the Methodist Churches of Newry, Bessbrook and Warrenpoint (Photo: Columba O’Hare)
United outside Newry Cathedral are (left to right) Church of Ireland Rector Canon Scott McDonald, Newry Cathedral Parish Administrator Canon Francis Brown and Rev Louise Donald of the Methodist Churches of Newry, Bessbrook and Warrenpoint (Photo: Columba O’Hare)
​​Newry’s Catholic, Anglican and Methodist church leaders have joined together to defend the city’s cathedral.

Newry Cathedral Parish Administrator Canon Francis Brown, Church of Ireland Rector Canon Scott McDonald and Rev Louise Donald of the Methodist Churches of Newry, Bessbrook and Warrenpoint are united in their concern over council plans to overshadow the Gothic granite grandeur of Newry Cathedral with the council’s proposed Civic and Regional Hub.

The city cathedral was the first opened in Ireland after Catholic emancipation. The building was constructed in 1829 – just as most restrictions were lifted from Roman Catholics across the UK and Ireland. The Catholic diocese dates back to the sixth century.

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Believing their listed place of worship to be under threat, more than 2,500 Catholic parishioners have signed letters of protest objecting to the council offices. Their complaints were presented recently to the council’s planning department.

Canon Francis Brown feels the Council should listen to the community and put a halt to this “expensive, unpopular and unnecessary project” that parishioners feel will eclipse the Cathedral’s bicentenary celebrations in 2029.

"Newry people are asking the Council not to blight its appearance with a wholly inappropriate modern building," he said. “Surely this is not too much to ask?”

Canon Scott McDonald, Rector of St Patrick's and St Mary's, Newry, said, “I fully support Canon Brown and his parishioners as they seek to protect the environment around the Cathedral. I would hope that their entirely legitimate concerns are not just noted – but also addressed respectfully and diligently. As a faith community they must be heard seriously and their protests upheld.”

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Revd Louise Donald said, “The congregations who form the Newry Circuit of the Methodist Church in Ireland would urge Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to give serious consideration to all options in relation to the siting of the new Civic Hub – and in particular to give due deliberation to the concerns raised by parishioners of Newry Cathedral.

“The impact of any new construction on the buildings which surround it must be adequately assessed, but surely particular regard must be given to a structure with the historic and aesthetic significance of the Cathedral. There should also be attention given to any potential constraint on the life of the worshipping community of the Cathedral, which has been present there for almost 200 years.”