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West Belfast priest pens 'fabulous' story of Poor Clares

Fr Martin Magill has written a new book about the story of the Poor Clares in Belfast after he "fell in love" with their "fabulous story"
Marie Louise McConville

A WEST Belfast priest has penned a new book about the story of the Poor Clares in Belfast after he "fell in love" with their "fabulous story".

Fr Martin Magill, parish priest of St John's on the Falls Road, said the book tells the story about how just five nuns from the order moved from Dublin to Belfast in 1924 to provide a "welcoming space" following the 1922 Belfast Riots.

Fr Magill said the order went on to maintain a presence in the city, and were based at a house on the Antrim Road for 88 years, finally leaving in 2012 due to dwindling numbers.

However, he said the order has "not been forgotten" and are "still remembered by people with great fondness".

Fr Martin Magill with his new book about the story of the Poor Clares in Belfast

"The book is an overview of their time in the city during those years," said Fr Magill.

"They came from a Poor Clare Monastery in Dublin and their reason really was a response to Belfast at that time. We had the First World War and we have the whole political unrest of the whole country and Belfast, for two years from July 1920 to June 1922, suffered fairly horrendous riots which left almost 500 people dead.

"In the aftermath, it was the vision of the Superior, Mother Genevieve, to have a house of prayer for the people of Belfast. The house was opened on the Antrim Road."

Fr Magill said five nuns initially made the move to Belfast while Mother Genevieve also came to help settle the group before she returned to Dublin.

"Right from the very start, they were a welcoming space," he said.

"They would have offered hospitality, they would have offered support of prayer and especially during the Troubles, they offered a place of listening and safety for people."

Fr Martin Magill has written a new book about the story of the Poor Clares in Belfast after he "fell in love" with their "fabulous story"

Fr Magill said while initially he knew "virtually nothing" about the Poor Clares, on learning of their story he became "fascinated" with it.

"Mother Genevieve left a legacy, this desire to have this place in Belfast and she was a determined woman," he said.

"Her decision then impacted my life almost 90 years later because I fell in love with the story. I had to write this story. It's a fabulous story."

He added: "They certainly have not been forgotten. They are still remembered by people with great fondness."

`The Poor Clares in Belfast 1924-2012' by Fr Martin Magill will be launched on June 19 following 7pm Mass at Sacred Heart parish, Glenview Street in north Belfast.

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