There aren’t that many Catholic priests whom leading IRA members have embraced down the years.
If you recall the days when the Catholic church in Northern Ireland used to condemn the IRA – yes, it did condemn it, even if it no longer does so – the IRA saw the Catholic church as its sworn enemy in the battle for nationalist hearts and minds, not excluding souls.
Let’s take a brief look back at those long gone days:
Worse condemnation of the IRA was to come:
It was Bishop Edward Daly, though, who laid it on the line:
For the great majority of Christians of all denominations, Bishop Edward Daly – the priest made famous waving a white handkerchief on Bloody Sunday – was completely right in his assessment.
The IRA was a clear moral evil whose practice of widespread and often indiscriminate murders and bombings marked it as wholly Satanic.
With the later rise of the IRA movement in the polls, particularly after the Belfast Agreement, the newer Catholic bishops felt they had to build a less condemnatory relationship with the powerful paramilitary political force that would undoubtedly affect the work of the Catholic church in many spheres – Catholic education and schools, financial grants, legislation affecting Catholic interests and morals – and so a new rapprochement was in order.
The churchman who drove the change was Martin McGuinness’ fellow Derryman and pal Eamon Martin whose rise through the ranks of the Catholic church began in 2010 when he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of Derry.
By 2011, Eamon Martin was Diocesan Administrator and this is when the Catholic church’s change in direction first became apparent.
Derry priest Fr. Michael Canny felt able to publicly endorse Martin McGuinness’ tilt at becoming President of Ireland at a public meeting at Free Derry Corner – not only to endorse it, but able to wear his full priestly garments at the McGuinness rally.
Canny would never have been allowed to do this while Bishop Edward Daly was in office – there were too many victims of the IRA – both Catholic and Protestant – who would have felt betrayed by this public show of support for an unrepentant IRA leader and mass murderer.
By 2013, Eamon Martin was Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh.
In the same year, a Fr. Gary Donegan officiated at an IRA funeral in Holy Cross Church, giving a homily in praise of the dead IRA volunteer.
By 2014, Eamon Martin was Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
Within a short time, bold Archbishop Eamon felt able to announce his support for a United Ireland while many IRA victims were still suffering and being denied the restitution of Truth by the IRA leaders, most prominent among them Martin McGuinness himself.
At the point where Eamon Martin and his underlings were endorsing the Republican cause in general, I was in receipt of calls from victims to help them get the Truth from Martin McGuinness, in particular families in Claudy – 10 miles from Derry – victims of Martin McGuinness’ Claudy Bombings.
Martin McGuinness – they said – was “blanking” their phone calls, emails and letters.
It was in 2016 that Fr. Gary Donegan offered an unprecedented Catholic mass of remembrance in honour of the IRA’s Active Service Units – otherwise known by the IRA as its “patriot dead” – those who went out and murdered and bombed for the IRA’s Army Council leadership.
By January of 2017 and the death of Martin McGuinness, Archbishop Eamon Martin and the Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, had decided to confer on the IRA mass murderer an unprecedented honour – they decided of their own accord to give McGuinness the honour due to a Head of State – exactly what the IRA Army Council had always believed of itself – that it was the true and only government of Ireland.
Fr. Gary Donegan couldn’t contain himself – he needed to clamber aboard the McGuinness bandwagon – or hearsewagon:
Archbishop Eamon Martin let the press know that he had visited the home of Martin McGuinness.
Following this press release, I rang a number of prominent Derry victims of the IRA to inquire if Archbishop Eamon Martin or even Derry Bishop Donal McKeown had ever visited them since their respective ordinations/installations to express personal support for victims of the IRA.
Answer: No visits from either Bishop Donal or Archbishop Eamon.
Derry priest Canny felt more emboldened after this in 2018 – claiming that Martin McGuinness had a clear conscience and would do it all again if he had his life to live over…
By this time, the Catholic church in Northern Ireland had entirely dumped IRA victims – those whom its former Bishop leaders had supported – and had come out of the closet as retrospectively branding the IRA’s Armed Struggle as legitimate in the circumstances.
Its current position is that there was no effective difference between IRA violence and legitimate force used by police and army to defeat a terror campaign regularly condemned by the Catholic church back in the day!
Fr. Gary Donegan’s Mass for IRA Active Service Units
It’s worth examining briefly Fr. Gary Donegan’s Mass for IRA Active Service Units.
The Mass was requested by a pro-IRA organisation The National Graves – whose membership currently includes IRA leader and Bayardo Bar Bomber Brendan Bik McFarlane whose gun and bomb attack murdered 4 Protestant civilians and 1 young UVF volunteer.
Contrary to the protocols in Catholic dioceses across Northern Ireland, Fr. Gary Donegan did not ask the IRA members and supporters to refrain from wearing IRA emblems in the church – virtually the entire congregation deliberately wore the emblem of the Provisional IRA since 1970 – the “pinhead” Easter lily symbol – inside the church and even on the altar.
Even one of the musicians on the altar wore the IRA symbol with no interference by Fr. Gary Donegan.
The IRA Eucharist was designed to include young persons bringing to the altar symbols of the IRA dead – in this case, Gaelic Athletic Association symbols – a hurling stick, a football, a GAA jersey – carried to the altar by young female Irish dancers – and to the accompaniment of Irish traditional music.
This shotgun marriage of the IRA’s unwanted and illegitimate campaign of murder to Irish cultural symbols and to young people was endorsed and facilitated by what I could now only call an apparently pro-IRA priest – Fr. Gary Donegan.
Not a word of dissent from Bishop Noel Treanor or Archbishop and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin.
Murder is now Good.
IRA murders are now subject to benediction by the Catholic church in Northern Ireland.
Young people are to be taught that IRA murders may be commemorated and glorified.
Some turnaround from the previous days of “followers of Satan” and “appalling mass of evil”…
The Ancient Order of Hibernians’ “Freedom for All Ireland” Award
Martin Galvin, formerly Director of one of the IRA’s fundraising arms in the United States, NORAID, has recently helped to form a unit within the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the United States called FFAI – the Freedom For All Ireland group.
In the picture, the FFAI stalwarts are holding bodhráns (hand-held drums) made by “Tyrone ex-POWs” intended as fund-raising items for the FFAI.
The FFAI has inaugurated an award and – you guessed it – Fr. Gary Donegan was one of the the FFAI’s first recipients.
One of the other regulars on the AOH/FFAI bandwagon is that internationally famous and unbiased Northern Ireland Human Rights’ Activist Mark Thompson of “Relatives for Justice”…
[For my take on Mark Thompson, see here.]
I don’t know any self-respecting priest from Northern Ireland who would want to be associated with Martin Galvin formerly of NORAID.
While on the AOH/FFAI ‘fact finding‘ mission, the unbiased seekers after truth were addressed by that closet IRA volunteer, gunman and bomber Paul O’Connor, Director of the unbiased Pat Finucane Centre…
I wonder did Paul show them a slideshow of his IRA days?
What kind of Truth does Fr. Gary Donegan deal in?
Does he feel no conscientious burden to highlight the IRA’s 1,700+ victims, many of them civilians, men, women and children, many tortured, executed and disappeared?
Does the word “repentance” even find a place in Donegan’s homilies to the IRA movement that arrogated to itself the right to commit mass murder?
Of course, Fr. Gary Donegan – who is a priest of a religious order, not a diocesan priest – can only do what he does in the Diocese of Down and Connor by the grace and favour of Bishop Noel Treanor.
Bishop Noel Treanor might not have direct authority over Donegan because of the latter’s religious order status – but he does have authority over everything that happens in a church in his diocese.
It is within Bishop Noel Treanor’s gift to reign in the activities of Gary Donegan if he so wishes.
[For my take on Bishop Noel Treanor, see here.]
Fr. Gary Donegan has made news complaining about funerals for victims of suicide:
This is a bit rich coming from a priest who has glamourised the IRA in church, as noted by Eilis O’Hanlon in The Belfast Telegraph:
Fr. Gary Donegan and the Murder of Robert McCartney
The sisters of IRA murder victim Robert McCartney have laid a serious complaint against Fr. Gary Donegan that he inveigled them to attend a meeting with representatives of the IRA at Holy Cross Church at a time when he was not one of the two Catholic church designated priests for such contacts.
In the wake of Robert McCartney’s murder, the entire IRA movement was desperate to discredit or silence the McCartney family.
Also, according to the family members, at the meeting with the two alleged IRA representatives, Wilson and Hughes, Gary Donegan “sat in” and told the sisters that he was “there to observe” and that they should treat him as “part of the wallpaper”.
The alleged IRA representatives had, in fact, nothing new to say to the sisters except to press them to concentrate on alleged witnesses to the murder, McKay, Devine and Gowdy and to tell the police to concentrate on these three.
The sisters came away from that meeting wondering why it had been arranged since they learned nothing new from those they believed to be the IRA representatives.
The next morning, however, they woke to the widespread news that the IRA had issued a statement claiming that it had made an offer to the McCartney family to shoot the alleged perpetrators – this the sisters claimed was a total lie.
The news media, however, ran with the IRA version of the story then and thereafter.
The family say they never heard from Donegan again.
By 2012, the McCartney family became aware of Mairia Cahill’s complaint to the PSNI regarding Wilson’s alleged membership of the IRA.
One of the McCartney family seized the opportunity to complain to the PSNI that Hughes and Wilson had represented themselves as IRA members at the Holy Cross meeting in the presence of Donegan – didn’t the IRA’s own statement claim that those at the meeting were IRA representatives?
The family really wanted the information it believed that the IRA was withholding about Robert’s murder.
Believing that the PSNI might regard the family members together as biased, the family reported to the PSNI that an independent witness was present who could substantiate their complaint regarding Wilson and Hughes – that independent witness was Fr. Gary Donegan.
The family pressed the PSNI to call Donegan as a witness in support of their complaint.
The family claim that Fr. Gary Donegan refused to cooperate with the PSNI in relation to the matter, that he falsely claimed that the family had asked him to remain present at the meeting and that he had met the family afterwards in “a pastoral capacity” – this they claimed was also a lie since none of them was a practising Catholic and none of them had ever heard of Donegan before or since and had no need of any third party to be present.
The family asked the PSNI to charge Donegan with withholding information.
Fr. Gary Donegan’s claim to have met the family in “a pastoral capacity” offered him the opportunity to claim that any matters discussed could be subject to a degree of privacy – not quite like the seal of the confessional – but a claim nevertheless that might allow him to say nothing.
In the event, the PSNI did nothing about Donegan’s failure to cooperate as a witness in support of the McCartney family.
Prosecutorial authorities – variously including Barra McGrory and Michael Agnew – laid out in detail to the family the nitpicking legal arguments in favour of the persons accused of IRA membership.
Only one version of this story can be true – that of the sisters of IRA murder victim Robert McCartney, or that of Fr. Gary Donegan who refused to cooperate with the PSNI against Wilson and Hughes.
You have to ask yourself – whom do you believe?
Does the Diocese of Down and Connor need the services of Fr. Gary Donegan offering Masses for IRA Active Service Units and being regularly photographed with leading IRA members?
You have to ask yourself – does it or doesn’t it?
Bobby Storey’s Funeral
According to Fr. Gary Donegan, Bobby Storey was not a practising or believing Catholic.
Why then does this IRA Army Council member need a Catholic funeral service at all?
“How Darr They Arrest Arr Leader?”
For an article about a Catholic Bishop who DID confront the IRA Army Council’s members, click here.
To view Fr. Gary Donegan’s Mass for IRA Active Service Units:
The PIRA are in the 2 governments on our island. They are advocates of abortion in both of them. This stance excommunicates them from the Catholic Church. Temporal affairs are under the jurisdiction of the State and Eternal affairs under that of the Catholic Church. Both receive their authority from God.
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I am thoroughly disgusted by the Actions of Martin,Donegal and Trainor. I will not afford them the respect and honour by calling them priests. In my opinion they are not priests and not men of God. Pope John Paul II when he came to Ireland in 1979 at Drogeda stated that “Murder was Murder” and made a plea for the men and women to turn away from “Satan’s” work. It beggars belief that Gary Donegan should say a mass for IRA members and glorify their deeds. Every right thinking catholic should condemn this action by Donegan and his cohorts. This article should be released for all to see. These terrorists have no place in Society what gives them the right to murder and maim their fellow country men. These men of the cloth should hang their heads in shame. They are not fit to wear the Holy Garments, they should be forced to resign with immediate effect.
Thanks for the huge effort you put into researching this article Shane.
I think Fr. Donegan is rooted in the people and parishioners of his community and is a good and decent man.
The world is moving on and time to do so in relation to our past Troubles. No one has a monopoly on right or wrong including yourself. There are layers of moral and political complexity in relation to our conflict and it wold be useful to acknowledge so.
You are intelligent and write well. But I would invite you to acknowledge the humanity,selflessness and kindness of people like Fr Donegan who has done much to build bridges between former advasaries.
Of course, in the spirit of free speech and expression I defend absolutely your right to stick the boot into Fr. Donegan, the deceased Bobby Storey or whoever else you so choose.
His treatment of the McCartney sisters was neither kind, decent nor honest…