Ahead of the 1,400th anniversary of the death of Derry patron, St. Eugene, this Thursday, a local councillor has said more needs to be done to recognise the North West’s ecclesiastical founding fathers.
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Alderman, Derek Hussey, has written to council officers asking them to explore potential options for the recognition of Eugene, or Éoghan, of Ardstraw, who is the patron of the Catholic diocese of Derry and gives his name to the city’s cathedral in Creggan Street.
“Last month at the July meeting of Council’s Environment and Regeneration Committee I endorsed £3000 of Council funding going towards plans for a joint commemoration, with Donegal County Council in 2021, of our area’s Columba/Colmcille heritage,” said Ald. Hussey.
“I welcomed the promotion of ecclesiastical heritage within the continuing development of our tourism package and indeed the close linkages that lie therein internally through these connections,” he said.
The Derg area councillor suggested Council might do more to recognise Eugene, describing the saint as a unifying figure, dear to both Protestants and Catholics, and who also links the Strabane and Derry areas of the local authority.
“I highlighted an equally notable ecclesiastical connection particularly prevalent to our new combined Council area of Derry and Strabane - a religious figure who predated the Reformation and was simply a Christian being neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant.
“Thursday will be the 1400th anniversary of the death of that man - Eugene-St. Eugene. It was Eugene who established an Abbey at Ardstraw in the later part of the 6th Century. He was created Bishop of Ardstraw in 581. It was this Bishopric that eventually moved to Derry in 1254 and St. Eugene remains the tutelary guardian of the See of Derry hence St. Eugene’s Cathedral.”
Ald. Hussey said Council’s plans to mark the 1,500th anniversary of the birth of St. Columba in 2021 could provide the template for a similar project for St. Eugene and revealed that he has asked a Council report to be brought forward to this effect.
“Both of these ecclesiastical notaries deserve appropriate recognition and indeed doing so can only enhance the attraction of our entire District to visitors. I would trust that our wider ecclesiastical legacy, including the ancient pilgrimage route along the Derg Valley from Ardstraw right through to Lough Derg, can be further developed for the benefit of all,” he said.