With the impending dissolution of town councils coming up at the end of their current term in 2014, the members of Ballina Town Council are determined to forge ahead with conservation work on the Augustine Abbey in the town. The abbey which was built in 1423, is the birth place of the town as it is today and the members were give an update on the first phase of restoration works undertaken by the town council in recent weeks. Kevin Keegan, town architect for Ballina Town Council, told the November meeting of the council: “We’ve made some good progress, the ivy on it looked more like a forest than anything else. We were worried about the weight of the ivy which could become top heavy on the ruins.”
The ivy removal was undertaken by the town gardener under the supervision of an archaeologist from Mayo County Council. Mr Keegan also told the members that the Belleek arch was another conservation project the council was looking into.
Acting town manager Paul Benson told the meeting: “The arch is owned by Ballina Town Council so we can work on that, but the abbey which is the first building in the town, there are still some question marks over the ownership, between the OPW, the diocese, and the Friends of the Abbey Committee. But this a project we have to do something on, we have 18 months and there will be a provision in the draft budget that will come before you.”
All of the elected members of the council backed any conservation works on the abbey, with Cllr Gerry Ginty saying, “It’s imperative that we do this work or in 20 years there’ll be nothing left if we don’t do this.” Cllr Johnny O’Malley who is a member of the Friends of the Abbey told the meeting: “In 2002 we formed this group so the abbey could be preserved and enjoyed by all for years to come. It’s the birth place of the town, it would be a travesty to not ensure that it’s not retained. It’s still in a state that can be preserved and we have the next 18 months to do it.”