GLENSTAL Abbey is being forced to consider closing their grounds to the public due to the number of personal injury claims made against them - and rising insurance costs.
They reveal that they currently have three open cases including one woman suing after a fall in the church.
In 2014, one of their students jumped off his skateboard and it ran into the back of a lady walking. Glenstal say she did not accept the Injuries Board assessment and it will “most likely proceed to court”. The third ongoing case concerns a fall in their guesthouse.
Fr Simon Sleeman confirms that there have been other claims with “substantial pay-outs”.
“We have been forced to consider closing our grounds due to the amount of claims. It is very much in sadness rather than in anger. It would be a very sad and retrograde step but it is the reality of life and we may have to become a little bit more careful.
“There is an issue and it is getting worse. Our insurance is increasing as a result of claims,” said Fr Simon.
The picturesque avenue up to Glenstal Abbey in Murroe is very popular with walkers.
“We love people coming here as it is a form of security. They contact me if they see something strange,” said Fr Simon. He describes banning the public and only opening at specific times for Masses as their “last option”. A spokesperson for the bursar’s office in Glenstal said their insurance costs stand at €70,000 per annum.
“The compensation culture is definitely a growing concern and schools and public buildings/spaces seem to be particular targets.
“We have requested the insurance company to take a strong position defending these claims where at all possible.
“A lot of claimants and solicitors know that insurance companies are happy to agree a quick settlement even if the claim is outrageous,” said the spokesperson.
According to the Injuries Board 2014 report, Limerick accounted for the highest number of personal injury awards on a per head of population basis with 953.
The average award in Limerick was €21,168 and total compensation for the county amounted to €20 million.
Among the hundreds of visitors every week are a mini-bus of service users from the Daughters of Charity in Lisnagry.
Paul Earls, of St Vincent’s, says if they couldn’t go to Glenstal they would be “stuck for someplace safe, peaceful and so good for our lads”.
“They go for a walk - the grounds are very sensory for them.
“It is an absolutely fantastic facility for us to touch into. We go for two hours and our service users ask to go to Glenstal,” said Paul.
Local lady, Kathryn Buckley has been walking in Glenstal since she was a little girl.
“It is fabulous. Two girls from abroad I was speaking to recently said after their first visit that it was ‘magical’. They were amazed by the beauty of it. It would be a shame to have the gates closed and they would be entitled to have them closed because it is private property.
“Hopefully it won’t come to that. I feel very strongly about keeping it open,” said Kathryn.