AN IRISH nun who only speaks for an hour a day after taking a vow of silence has been told she has until Christmas to find a new home.
Sister Irene Gibson was informed of the decision at a hearing on Monday, having been brought to court over the matter by Cork County Council.
She now has until December to leave her chapel and home.
The local authority has accused Sister Irene of breaching planning laws with the construction of a two-storey cladded building close to Leap in West Cork.
The structure incorporates a small wooden chapel, shed and timber fence.
Sister Irene has lived her life as a Carmelite Nun of the Holy Face of Jesus for the past 30 years.
Under the terms of her faith, she has taken vows of obedience and poverty, including a vow of silence that means she can speak for just one hour a day.
Cork County Council alleged that Sister Irene breached Section 154 of the Planning and Development Act 2000.
According to the Press Association, the local authority’s solicitor Patricia Murphy told Judge James McNulty at Skibbereen District Court that the nun's settlement at Corran South was “entirely unauthorised” and that the local authority first initiated proceedings in 2016 after receiving complaints from locals.
Speaking on behalf of Sister Irene, her solicitor Letty Baker defended the construction of the dwellings, arguing they were primarily for “religious purposes.”
“All the buildings are for religious purposes, for prayer and contemplation. Where they are living is very basic,” Baker said.
“They are selling the property and they are hoping that will remedy everything.”
While Baker argued that some of the construction had already been removed and that the rest was for sale.
However, YouTube videos and photographs shown to the court from an inspection carried out last week suggested there was still a substantial structure present.
The hearing came a week after Sister Irene was joined by Sister Anne Marie, who became a Carmelite Nun of the Holy Face of Jesus and began residing at the premises.
25 people were present for her arrival, sparking fresh concerns about the site.
Ms Murphy was keen to stress the council had done all they could to avoid court, but they could see no other way of rectifying the issue for local residents.
“It would be dreadful if there was a criminal prosecution against this lady. They have nowhere else to go,” Sister Irene’s lawyer Ms Baker said, according to the Press Association.
Judge McNulty has granted an adjournment until December 10th, suggesting one of the many orders in West Cork or the Diocesan authorities may be able to offer the nuns a new home.