The priest at a church wrecked by vandals last week said that both he and his parishioners have been enormously buoyed by the outpouring of support since the shocking images made international headlines.
A GoFundMe campaign set up by the Very Reverend Stan Evans has already raised close over €16,000 of the €70,000 needed to bring the picturesque Errislannan Church of Ireland back to life.
Parishioners were left distraught when they found the Church of the Holy Trinity torn asunder last week – but they have since been met with the hand of friendship from communities across Ireland.
Speaking to the Connacht Tribune, Rev. Evans said that the overwhelming level of support since last week’s discovery has been “wonderful”.
“The community has been absolutely marvelous and there have been expressions of support from every corner of the community.
“I have to say that the Gardaí have been wonderful throughout this whole process and their investigations are ongoing at the moment,” said Rev. Evans.
Gardaí in Clifden have confirmed they are following a direct line of enquiry and said they were not in a position to confirm any reports that arrests have been made.
The damage caused to the church is not thought to have been motivated by any sectarian divisions.
The Dean of Tuam, the Very Reverend Alistair Grimason, said that the damage to Errislannan Church had resonated across the country – and further afield.
“There has been complete cross-community support here and everyone in Clifden and Errislannan felt, very acutely, the effect of this and they are saying, ‘we want to help you put it back together again’.
“This really touched a nerve and upset an awful lot of people – I have had enquiries from the UK and from as far away as Portugal.
“The damage that was done here was silly, daft and pointless and when you stand in the middle of it, it really brings it home – you stand there and think about why and for what reason somebody would do this,” said Rev. Grimason.
Donations to the GoFundMe campaign are representative of this sentiment with donations averaging out as amounts of less that €100.
Local TD, Deputy Éamon Ó Cúiv, expressed his shock and dismay at the damage caused to the church.
“In the first instance, I wish to extend my support to the local Church of Ireland congregation. In particular, I salute Rev. Stan Evans, whom I know well, for the characteristic leadership that he has shown in the face of extensive criminal damage to his beautiful church.
“The pictures of overturned and smashed pews, and damaged pulpit, altar, organ and light fittings are deeply disturbing.
“Rev. Stan’s articulation of the upset and concern affecting the congregation was searingly honest and moving at a personal level,” said the Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West.
Rev. Evans said that the damage had caused a lot of pain in the small community but the time had now come to move forward with a view to getting the church back into use.
“The damage is very bad and it will take a lot of work but we are going to do the work,” he said.
He said that they hope to have the church back open in time for the most important part of the Christian Calendar next year.
“We are working towards next Easter and we will have a real celebration of this. This is a great little church and we have an amazing community here.
“The community will deal with it and we will do it through love and compassion,” said Rev. Evans.