Plans that have been long in the finalising stages have at long last been finalised, and so it is the end of an era for one of Dublin’s historic buildings; the old South Dublin Union Poorhouse Chapel. Over the past couple of years the Community of Saint James the Just has had the privilege of meeting there for Sunday worship, and now it has been closed to be demolished. It was in this unassuming red-brick chapel that Eamonn Ceannt’s brigade fought off the British Army reinforcements as they arrived into the city at Kingsbridge (now Heuston) Station during the 1916 Easter Rising, and so there are many reasons why we are sad to see the building removed from the landscape. Over the past few years the local community at Rialto fought to have a preservation order placed on the structure, but this was to no avail. When it comes to progress, especially of a lucrative nature, nothing stands in the way of Dublin City Council. The church has closed its doors for the last time and so we, and others, have had to relocate to the new multi-faith space within St. James’s Hospital.
At least in the construction of a new worship space the planning authorities have been mindful of the ancient history of the site they have decided to demolish. The new prayer space inside the hospital has been called the Camino Rest, reflecting the long association of the parish with the medieval pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela. Fewer and fewer people today realise that Dublin was the first stage of the famous Camino, and it is so typically Irish that one should take a rest from the task as soon as it has begun. I jest, of course, but the new name does serve to remind us that we are all on a journey. That this environment has been opened up to people all faiths demonstrates just how far we have come on our journey of togetherness. It is good that we are learning that prayer is something that we can all do together, or, at the very least, in the same space. Part of me is delighted that we are progressing in the right direction, but I still reserve the right to lament the passing – and the wilful ignoring – of such physical reminders of our history.