New oratory met with mixed reactions from Dungannon parishioners

The oratory right, and Hughes Bookmakers
The oratory right, and Hughes Bookmakers

The relocation of Aras Mhuire Oratory to the top of Irish Street has been met with mixed reactions from Dungannon parishioners.

One man, who regularly visits the place of worship, has blasted the sale of the original oratory while describing the reduced size of its replacement as “claustrophobic”, and said many others share his thoughts.

“No disrespect,” he said, “but to sell a place of worship to a bookmaker I think is a scandal in itself.”

Another parishioner, however, has welcomed the move. She said: “Where the oratory is now is more convenient as more people will drop in as they are walking past. I thought it was a good place for it.”

Aras Mhuire Oratory was re-opened at 14 Irish Street on Wednesday, February 1, after closing on Shambles Lane at 5pm on Thursday, January 26.

Dungannon Parish Priest Dean Colum Curry told the Times he had not heard any complaints about the new oratory - which he said the parish owns.

Admitting that it is “about three persons smaller”, he said: “This is the first time that I have heard any disquiet about it.

“On the contrary people have been absolutely delighted. The facilities are very pleasant and the location is very convenient.”

He also said parishioners were given the chance to have their say on the move, which was approved by the parish’s finance committee.

But when asked about the cost of the relocation and sale of the previous building to the bookmakers, he said: “I have no comment to make about that, and I don’t think it is of any interest.”

Information on Northern Ireland’s planning portal outlines how Hughes’ Bookmakers has applied for and been granted planning permission to extend its premises on Irish Street into the former oratory - so that the business occupies the entire ground floor, while a two-bedroom flat will be installed above. They were contacted for comment.