Report from Green Conference in Kilkenny College
Parishioners and clergy from across the Cashel, Ferns and Ossory Diocese came in large numbers to Kilkenny College on Saturday, 18th February to learn ways of improving their church properties, inside and out. A number also teamed up with parishes which have already been grant aided to carry out work. There was good collaboration between Roman Catholic, Methodist and Church of Ireland parishioners represented at this ‘Inside & Out’ conference.
Ruth Buggie from the Sustainable Energy Agency of Ireland (SEAI) travelled from Dundalk to explain how grants from a fund of €30 million can be accessed by parishes under the Sustainable Energy Communities Network. Communities in the South East have been slow to draw down this money, so SEAI would welcome more applications from Cashel, Ferns and Ossory under this programme. Projects could involve insulation works and help with roof replacement, or replacing oil heating with a geothermal or other renewable energy system.
Dr Úna Fitzpatrick from the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford told the large attendance, many with a farming background, how the value to our food sector of pollination is €53 million in this state alone per annum. 80% of this ‘free’ pollination service depends on the 98 remaining species of native bees living in Ireland. However, since the 1980’s, half of these bees species have been in decline. To survive, a bee needs to visit a variety of 6000 flowers a day, during spring, summer and autumn.
68 organisations have drawn up a national pollinator plan to restore habitats for these vital bee species. Schools, councils, businesses, Iarnród Éireann, etc., are all involved. However, the churches also have an important role to play in planting native trees, mowing some areas of grass less, letting flowers grow which blossom in different seasons, and even lending space to beekeepers to locate hives in the corner of a churchyard for a few seasons. A parish which does this generally gets some jars of honey in return from the beekeeper in appreciation. For more details, please visit www.biodiversityireland.ie/pollinator-plan.
Drawing together the outdoor and indoor concerns of all present, Alison Harvey from the Heritage Council reminded parishes of the potential for churches to be the focus of many towns and rural communities. Fáilte Ireland research is showing how there is a growing interest in tourists visiting churches. This is even more pronounced where there are outdoor seating areas, toilet facilities and information plaques or interpretative display boards.
Any parish interested in discussing the potential for their church in this regard can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information on community energy plans and grant applications etc. contact
Report by Trevor Sargent
Member of the Diocese’s Environment Committee.