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Canadian gold mining firm disputes Tyrone priest's Mass Rock claim

Greencastle residents pictured at the Mass rock site
Connla Young

A CANADIAN gold mining firm has disputed a Catholic priest's view that a Mass Rock is on land under their control.

Dalradian Gold was responding after it emerged the mining firm has refused to allow Mass to be said at the sacramental stone near Greencastle, Co Tyrone, as part of the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy.

In Friday’s Irish News Fr John Forbes, who is parish priest in Badoney, revealed that he has written to Dalradian on behalf of himself and Greencastle parish priest Fr Edward Gallagher asking for access to the rock.

To date permission has not been granted.

Dalradian wants to build a processing plant to extract ore from gold mined locally at the rock site.

Some local people are opposed to both the mine and the proposed processing plant and fear that if authorities give permission for the plant the Mass rock may be submerged in a pond.

The Mass rock, which is in an area known as Crockanboy Hill, is believed to date back to the penal laws when Catholics were forced to practice their faith in secret.

Mass rocks hold a special place in the communities where they are located because of the religious persecution associated with them.

In a statement Dalradian appeared to dispute the beliefs of the priest and some local residents.

“The Greencastle parish website indicates that there are three Mass Rocks in the parish,” it said.

“The diocesan office confirmed to us the information on the Greencastle parish website matched their records.

“None of these sites are on land controlled or owned by Dalradian.

“We have no evidence of a Mass Rock on land owned or controlled by us.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Derry diocese last night said “there could be any number” of Mass rocks.

“Mass rocks are down to local knowledge, of the three known we are aware that Masses have been celebrated at those in recent years,” she said.

“Given the Mass rocks were used in the time of penal laws written records of their locations would not have been kept for obvious reasons.

“This kind of thing would really be down to local knowledge.”

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