Pensioner (83) issued £60 fine after praying in Adoration Chapel

The Adoration Chapel in Lurgan which is beside Mount Zion House formerly the Convent of Mercy Photo courtesy of Google
The Adoration Chapel in Lurgan which is beside Mount Zion House formerly the Convent of Mercy Photo courtesy of Google

The daughter of an 83-year-old pensioner is furious after he received a £60 fine from a private car parking firm after spending 15 minutes in the Adoration Chapel in Lurgan.

She revealed her father had nipped into the Adoration Chapel to say a few prayers and light a candle. He parked his car, as usual, in the car park outside.

However soon after he received a £60 fine in the post and his daughter is very upset.

“He has got into a tizzy about it and insists it is paid but I am refusing to let him pay. It is absolutely shocking. This chapel has been used over decades by many local people, particularly the elderly and the sick,” she said and has vowed not to pay the fine.

It is understood a number of fines were issued, mostly to elderly visitors to the chapel and some of them have been paid back after it transpired there was an issue of land ownership.

The fines were issued by a private company brought in by the board of directors of Mount Zion House which is beside the chapel.

SDLP Cllr Joe Nelson is a director on the board that runs Mount Zion House a facility for community based services.

He explained that the car park at Mount Zion had been used by people working on the town, doing messages or picking up children from St Ronan’s. “Our service users have been finding it difficult to access our car park,” he said.

“We agreed a contract with Creative Car Parks to implement and manage a parking solution. This was provided at no cost to Mount Zion neither do we receive any remuneration for parking violation fines. All parking is free of charge to our service users as long as they register their vehicle at reception .

“The system allows a 15 minute window where vehicles entering and leaving within this timeframe are not issued with penalty notices. This is to allow drivers to drop service users off without having to register.

“We had recognised that visitors to the Adoration Chapel would be impacted by this so we installed a device for registering vehicles in the hallway of the chapel to allow users to do this. As our current Chairman is associated with the Chapel we were of the understanding that the installation of this device had been agreed. Unfortunately, this appears not to have been the case so the device was de-installed by members of the Committee and returned to us.

“When parking fines began to be issued to Chapel users and having had contact with members of the committee we proceeded to review the terms of our agreement with our provider. Having reviewed the Deeds associated with the sale of the premises to ourselves by the Diocese of Dromore we found that a portion of land outside the Chapel near the exit gate was not in our ownership. As this had made any previously issued parking fines unenforceable we asked our provider to switch off monitoring while we made arrangements for all fines issued up until that time to be rescinded. We believe we have now received all the necessary information to allow this to happen.

“In order to re-address our own parking problem, we had the cameras moved so that they were now monitoring traffic leaving our site at the boundary of our site and the Chapel. The cameras were turned back on in this format on 4th July 2019. A 15 minute grace period still allows chapel users to enter our site and proceed to their own parking spaces without penalty. Any user is welcome to continue to use our portion of the car park on the proviso that they register their vehicle with our reception.

“Unfortunately when our building is closed it will not be possible to do this however we would be happy to reinstall the registration device in the Chapel, should they so wish.

“As we have entered into a five year agreement for 24/7 monitoring of the car park it is not possible to adjust the coverage hours to exclude weekends which we would have liked to do. We also feel that in the interests of road safety it would not be advisable to fit bollards (removable or otherwise) between the two sites as this would cause serious issues for pedestrians and traffic entering and leaving the site.

“While we understand that the introduction of this parking system has not been the smoothest for both parties we do so in the best interests of our service users. A misunderstanding over the land registry, a failure in communication with the committee at the outset, has regrettably brought us to this situation. We will continue to do all we can to accommodate a good working relationship on this shared site.”

Sinn Fein Cllr Liam Mackle said: “I have been made aware of the situation of fines being issued to some elderly people attending the adoration chapel for their weekly hour of prayer. While I completely understand the difficulty that Mount Zion have in relation to parking spaces I have reservations about the approach they have taken.

“Some people have been getting fines for parking while praying after 8:00 pm and receiving threatening demands from a company whose sole aim is to profit from the situation. I would call on the management of Mount Zion to reconsider their whole approach to this matter and work with others in the community to find a better solution.”

A spokesperson for the Adoration Chapel Committee said they were unable to comment as the matter is an ongoing legal case.”