THOUSANDS of euro worth of damage was caused to a church window when vandals hurled rocks at St Mary’s Church, Baltinglass recently.
The rocks were fired so hard at the church windows that they penetrated storm glazing and smashed the stained glass behind it in two places.
“It’s just people who had nothing better to do, it’s such a shame. In order to break though the glazing, they must have used stones as big as your fist, and with force, too,” Reverend Máirt Hanley told The Nationalist.
The damage was spotted by one of the church groundsmen after he saw a group of youths near the building. It would appear that the group returned to the listed church later that day and caused further damage.
The church’s windows haven’t been renovated in its 180-year history, but the parish has begun a costly renovation programme on all of the windows. Work on replacing the lead in the north and south side of the church has been completed and the parish was gathering funds to ensure the most expensive window on the west side could be revamped. The cost of that work has now sky-rocketed because of the criminal damage to the actual stained glass itself.
“The cost of renovating the west side was going to be expensive anyway – a five-figure sum – because it’s a listed building and it’s specialist work. It’s very expensive to restore stained glass. It could cost between €20,000 and €30,000 now. For a small amount of vandalism, there’s a large amount of damage done,” Rev Hanley pointed out.
The vandals also damaged some of the new storm glazing on another window, too.
“It takes a fair bloody hammering to break the storm glazing because it’s obviously designed to withstand force. It just shows you what strength they used to break it,” Rev Máirt continued.
St Mary’s Church is part of the Baltinglass Church of Ireland group of parishes and is located beside the ruins of the historic Cistercian abbey. The River Slaney is close to the Gothic-style church, so it’s a natural beauty spot that attracts visitors and locals.
“The church is very much part of the town and it’s a place where people – both locals and visitors – like to come. It’s such a pity to see damage being done here, it’s a shame,” Rev Hanley concluded.