News that ownership of a parish hall in Dungiven is to be transferred has led to an online campaign in protest.
A Facebook page ‘Save St Canice’s Hall Dungiven’ has now been created.
The Facebook page message states: “St Canice’s Hall belongs to the parishoners of Dungiven and it should be their right to decide if the hall should be sold!”.
The page’s message urges people to support and share the page “if you want to see St Canice’s Hall remain in the hands of the Parish of St Patrick’s Dungiven and the parishioners”.
The move follows a notice by Parish Priest, Fr Aidan Mullan in last Sunday’s Dungiven Parish bulletin that ownership of the hall on Main Street is to be transferred to a local Irish group, Glór Dungiven.
Writing in the bulletin, Fr Mullan said over the last several years St. Canice’s Hall has been running at a loss and costing the parish considerable expense, a deficit that was of concern to the Parish Fiinance Committee.
The concern has nothing to do with who takes it over. It’s about the way it was done.James McMacken
“Our hope always had been to cater for the requirements of all Hall users and, while we did not want a profit neither did we want a continuing substantial loss. Our wish always was to provide for the activities of the various groups who use the Hall,” he stated.
Fr Mullan said St. Canice’s requires investment to bring it up to standard to modernise it, including disabled toilet facilities, heating and lighting. He said a gentleman who supervises functions and manages the hall does so voluntarily, and does not get paid a wage, “and it is unlikely when he retires that there will be anyone who will be willing to take on his duties on the same basis”.
Fr Mullan said the Irish cultural organisation, Glór, “approached me wanting to know if we would be willing to sell the Hall”.
“In discussions, when they agreed to continue to accommodate all existing users of the Hall if they managed it, it was felt proper by the Parish Finance Committee and the Diocesan Authorities to consider selling St. Canice’s. The added advantage under their administration would be that many cultural events would be available to the Dungiven community.
“In the light of these reflections it was decided to transfer the ownership of St. Canice’s to Glór Dungiven. We are in the process of achieving this.”
Parishioner James McMacken said people he has spoken with are “angry and disgusted”.
“The hall has been here a lifetime, and it’s used by several groups. The concern has nothing to do with who takes it over. It’s about the way it was done,” he said.
“There was no consultation with the parish. All the smaller parishes have parochial halls and here, a parish the size of Dungiven is trying to get rid of theirs. People are disgusted.”
The Hall is used by various local groups, including the local accordion band and Irish dancing classes.