Priest fears church gutted by fire will be closed for years
The parish priest from the historic city centre church which was gutted in a fire this week has said it may be years before it will reopen.
Extensive smoke and water damage were caused by the fire at the 19th Century St Catherine's Church on Meath Street in Dublin's Liberties.
Parish priest Fr Niall Coghlan said the church's organ -- thought to be the oldest in Dublin -- was ruined in the blaze.
The church was in the spotlight in December 2010 when Hollywood actor Martin Sheen attended Mass there on a Saturday evening, happily chatting with locals afterwards.
Patrick Curry (48) of no fixed abode, was charged with arson and remanded in custody for a week. A psychiatric assessment has been ordered at the request of his solicitor.
Fr Coghlan said: "At 4pm on Monday I was told that there was a fire in the church, and by the time I got across the fire had took hold. The fire brigade and the gardai were magnificent.
"The church is now in a dangerous condition. It's not for viewing by the public, it can't be. It's one of the oldest churches in Dublin, the records date back to the 1600s, so a lot of people in Dublin have connections with the church.
"The organ was the oldest working one in Dublin and it's been completely incinerated. It was a very old precious organ. The huge stained glass window over the high altar was damaged.
"The crib went on fire and the vapours from the crib went up and got trapped in the roof, and a fireball went from the back to the front of the church. There's damaged glass all around.
"People are very upset over their church. It's months or years before it may open again," said Fr Coghlan.
"It has been and is the centre of the community, it's the people's church. It was simple and magnificent inside.
"We made a decision that we'd open it from 7.30 in the mornings until 5pm, seven days a week. But even when the church is restored, it'll be opened like that again. The loss adjudicators are here, and an architect has been appointed."
He warned that locals should not give money to anyone posing as a fundraiser for the church, since no fundraising has been authorised.