In 1969 an unusual church dispute took place in Villierstown, Co. Waterford, when the Church of Ireland donated a church to the Catholics of the town. The donation resulted in a dispute between the parish priest and the laity of the town.
The church was originally built for the Protestant flax spinners who had been brought down to work from Northern Ireland. When the linen industry failed, the Protestants drifted away. Twelve years previously the Protestant church was closed down. However, in 1963 James Villiers Stuart, a descendant of the family who built it, decided to hand the old church over to the people of Villierstown. The idea was welcomed by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, the parish priest, Fr. Hackett, and the Catholics of Villierstown. It meant they would, at last, have their own church in Villierstown.
They set up a restoration fund to raise £1,500. The keys were formally handed over by the Protestants to the Catholics in 1965. However, difficulties arose when both the Bishop and the parish priest died. Since the new Parish Priest, Fr. Quinlan, accepted the keys to the new church, things have gone from bad to worse for the church. It has emerged that Fr. Quinlan is not keen on the idea. The restoration committee has raised the money needed but can't carry out the work without the consent of the parish priest.
Generosity and wisdom have here prevailed to insure that a house of God shall continue to be used although in a slightly different manner to the end for which it was intended rather than be allowed to fall into disrepair and ruin.
Cathal O'Shannon reports for the programme 'Newsbeat' which was broadcast on 30 October 1969.