Shock and disgust after statue is smashed by vandals at Limerick church

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

A 400-YEAR-OLD statue of the Virgin Mary has been attacked by a thug who pulled it off the wall and smashed it to pieces.

A 400-YEAR-OLD statue of the Virgin Mary has been attacked by a thug who pulled it off the wall and smashed it to pieces.

Gardai at Henry Street are investigating the attack, which happened at the Dominican’s Church at Glentworth Street in the city centre.

It is thought the vandal, a man aged in his 20s, entered the church building at teatime last Wednesday, climbing six feet to reach the religious icon before pulling it down.

The timber statue – brought to Limerick in 1640 – was immediately smashed to pieces following the incident.

This was the third attack on the religious icon, which was given to Fr Terence Albert O’Brien, Prior of the Old St Saviour’s Church, and survived the persecution during Cromwell’s times.

In 2004, its gold crown and rosary beads were broken off. Shortly before this, its neck was cracked after someone tried to topple it with a rope.

Local Republican Sinn Fein activist Sean O’Neill described the latest attack it as a “new low” – and called on Limerick City Council to review security around the Church.

Meanwhile, Randel Hodkinson, of Hodkinson and Sons Ecclesiastical Decorators, said the statue will take weeks to repair.

After being donated to Fr O’Brien, the Our Lady of Limerick statue lay hidden during the persecution - kept watch by devotees. When the Dominican’s opened a small church in Fish Lane, it was again the subject of devotion by the people of Limerick. It travelled to the current St Saviour’s in Glentworth Street upon its opening in 1816.

Parish priest Fr Jordan O’Brien said that because the statue is made from timber, as opposed to plaster, it is repairable.

“It was an absolute shock to see this happen to a statue that is very venerated in the city, though,” he said.

Mr O’Neill said he was “disgusted” upon learning of the attack though.

“It is nothing but vandalism. Jail is not good enough for the people who have done this. In a Catholic country, we now have to have people standing there on security, whereas at one time people were proud of the Church,” he said, “I have never seen any Church vandalised in such a way. This represents an attack on the entire Dominican community, and it must be condemned by all right thinking people.”