Please forgive me for this post as I may rant quite a bit. Words cannot describe how angry this has made me. On 24th Febuary 2014 after suffering damage during a storm 10 days earlier, Coolbanagher Castle an early Medieval Tower Hall, built in the early 13th century was completely demolished. Many of you will already know how passionate I am about the preservation of these sites, in fact one of the main factors which influenced my photography was to preserve in images as many sites as possible. Unfortunately I never got to shoot the castle whilst it was still standing, so I guess this is the first casualty in my quest. The reason I have not written about this sad turn of events sooner was because I wanted to see the site for myself, and what a sad sight it is. The entire structure is now just a large pile of rubble. The following statement was released by the National Monument Service via their Facebook Page on the 28th Febuary.
”The Department is aware of recent events at Coolbanagher Castle, Co Laois, a Recorded Monument (LA008-015—Tower House) under the terms of the National Monuments Acts 1930-2004. The castle is in private ownership and is not maintained by the Office of Public Works, as is the case with national monuments in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
On 17th February 2014, the Department was informed of the collapse of extensive sections of the structure of the Castle due to storm damage. In response to urgent health and safety concerns raised by the property owners, the Department advised that immediate engineering advice be sought and that Laois County Council be contacted as the responsible authority for dangerous buildings.
On Friday last, 21 February, the property owners informed the Department of their continuing concerns and of their intention to make the remaining structure safe. Having regard to the pressing concerns raised by the owners, the Department, on grounds of urgent necessity, granted consent for the removal of such parts of the structure as was identified as being strictly necessary to comply with specific directions from Laois County Council under dangerous buildings legislation or by a qualified engineer as being immediately and urgently necessary on the grounds of protecting public safety.
The Department is now assessing the works subsequently carried out on site in the context of the terms of the limited consent granted on 21st February.”
Now for a little history of this once fine structure. As mentioned Coolbanagher Castle dates back to the early 13th century and would have been active along with other early Anglo-Normal fortifications in the area, such as Lea Castle, Morett Castle, Shaen Castle, (which was destroyed in the 19th century to make way for a hospital). Then of course there is Rock of Dunamase. This makes Coolbanagher an extremely important piece of our history and heritage. It,s actually quite sickening to think that not more was done to protect and conserve this site. Instead of destroying the site surely the walls could have been braced or had buttresses installed to make the structure safe?
Nothing further has come to light regarding this will full destruction of an important piece of both local and National Heritage . To me it looks like the three parties involved in this fiasco are all keeping quite to cover their arses. One thing is for sure, someone needs to take responsibility for this disgrace.