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Irish saints will be 'turning in their graves' after Co Down church renamed in sign

The new sign bearing the name Raholp Church was erected recently by the Department of Communities. Picture by Tony Cheetham

A POLITICAN has branded "ridiculous" plans by officials to remove the name of an historic Co Down church amid claims it is being claiming it is "whitewashed by needless bureaucracy".

An old green sign bearing the name, St Tassach's Church, Raholp, has been removed and replaced with one bearing, Raholp Church.

The changes to the sign close to the church - a popular stop on the St Patrick's tourist trail - was made by the Department of Communities.

But the alteration at the site, which is named after St Tassach who is said to have administered the last rites to Ireland's patron spirit, St Patrick, has angered local people.

Tony Cheetham from Raholp said he believed the old name should be reinstated.

"It is simply not Raholp Church, it had always been St Tassach's - that's the way it has been known commonly and historically" he said.

"I believe it should be changed back to the original, don't let St Tassach's name be eradicated.

"St Tassach and St Patrick would be turning in their graves right now because of this."

The removal of the old sign has angered local people. Picture by Tony Cheetham

A Department for Communities spokeswoman said the site at Raholp, near Saul, is one of 190 historic sites the department manages across the north, including erecting new name signs.

"We have endeavoured to ensure that new site signs continue the naming of sites as they have come to us," she said.

"In the case of Raholp, our Deed of Guardianship for the site records it as '...the Monument commonly known as Raholp Church'.

"The department recognises that the site does have a long association with St Tassach and strong associations with the wider story of St Patrick in the Lecale/Downpatrick area

"The site's association with St Tassach is a key part of our interpretive panel at the site."

South Down MLA Colin McGrath it was "ridiculous that the name of St Tassach's church is being whitewashed by needless bureaucracy".

"People in this community can't understand why new signage has removed the historic name in place of a soulless description. The best thing to do here is change the name back as soon as possible."

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