Cork activist questioned over allegations of harassment by Christian fundamentalists

Woman arrested after allegations by Society of Saint Pius X Resistance

SSPX Resistance founder Richard Williamson. File photograph: Jens Falk/Reuters

SSPX Resistance founder Richard Williamson. File photograph: Jens Falk/Reuters

 

A file is to be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on a Cork activist accused of “inciting hatred” against a Christian fundamentalist group.

Fiona O’Leary was arrested by appointment on Tuesday for the purpose of Garda interview regarding allegations of incitement to hatred, harassment and trespass against the members of the Society of Saint Pius X Resistance (SSPX Resistance), which operates from a compound in west Cork.

The group, part of a loose worldwide network, was founded by ex-Catholic priest Richard Williamson, who recently gave a sermon in Cork linking Jewish people to the start of Covid-19 and calling them “master servants of the devil”.

Ms O’Leary has written about the group on her blog and visited its compound to take pictures and question its leaders. She also photographed and published pictures of two of its priests after spotting them in the supermarket.

Incitement to hatred, a rarely prosecuted offence, makes it a crime to publish material “likely to stir up hatred” against a group or individual.

Ms O’Leary was last week informed by gardaí that she was to be arrested for the purposes of interview in relation to the allegations. She was told she would be arrested in public if she did not attend the Garda station by arrangement.

After arriving at the station by appointment, Ms O’Leary was arrested on the allegation of harassment before being interviewed for five hours, with one break in the middle, on all three accusations.

During interview, gardaí put it to her that the members of the church were afraid as a result of her actions. They also questioned her about her interaction with journalists who have written about the SSPX resistance.

A DNA sample and fingerprints were taken before she was released on Tuesday night.

“The female was released without charge, the investigation is ongoing and a file will be prepared for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions,” a Garda spokesman confirmed.

SSPX Resistance

The Cork branch of SSPX Resistance came to some prominence recently when its leader, Giacomo Ballini, led a procession through Dublin to perform an exorcism of the Dáil, in an apparent breach of Covid-19 regulations.

The Drimoleague woman has a long history of campaigning on various topics through her blog and social media channels.

Last year, SSPX Resistance founder Mr Williamson travelled to the Cork branch, which is based in a farmhouse in a remote part of the county, where he gave a sermon claiming, among other things, that Jewish people are manipulating the stock market in an effort to start a war. The Jewish Representative Council of Ireland referred the comments to the Garda after they were reported in the Sunday World newspaper.

Mr Williamson was once a priest in the Catholic Church before being excommunicated in the late 1980s. He was later readmitted to the church before being excommunicated again in 2009 after his conviction in a German court of Holocaust denial.

He founded SSPX Resistance as an off-shoot of the Society of St Pius X which itself once broke away from mainstream Catholicism over its belief that the modern church was becoming too liberal.

Mr Williamson’s group is more conservative again, and believes the SSPX has itself become too modern. SSPX Resistance describes itself as “a group of traditional Catholics who wish to practise their faith without compromise to liberalism or modernism”.

His group has been accused of harbouring two Catholic priests in the UK after they were accused of sexual abuse while members of the original SSPX sect.