Gardaí are to arrest a Cork activist next week on charges of "inciting hatred" against a Christian fundamentalist group operating in the county.
The group, which is part of a loose worldwide network called the Society of Saint Pius X Resistance (SSPX Resistance), was founded by an ex-Catholic bishop who recently gave a sermon in Cork linking Jewish people to the start of Covid-19 and calling them “master servants of the devil”.
SSPX Resistance has made a complaint to gardaí alleging incitement to hatred, harassment and trespass by Cork resident and campaigner Fiona O’Leary, who lives close to the church.
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 is a rarely prosecuted offence which makes it a crime to publish material “likely to stir up hatred” against a group or individual.
Last week, Ms O’Leary was informed by gardaí in west Cork that she is to be arrested by appointment next Tuesday for the purposes of interview in relation to the allegations. She was told she will be arrested in public if she does not attend the Garda station by arrangement.
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.
As part of their investigation into Ms O’Leary, gardaí contacted a journalist from Cork’s Southern Star newspaper last year and asked who her source was for a story she wrote about SPPX Resistance, The Irish Times understands.
Ms O'Leary's solicitor Ray Hennessy said this week he is surprised by the Garda's approach to the case. "They are being very aggressive towards Fiona and I don't see the need for it."
The Drimoleague woman has a long history of campaigning on various topics through her blog and social media channels. She has previously clashed with Scientology, far-right movements and promoters of fake autism cures.
She was told by gardaí recently that a file on her case is to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for recommendation on what charges to bring. An investigating garda has mentioned her social media activity as the basis for some of the allegations made against her.
Last year, SSPX Resistance founder Richard 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 bishop 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 is not in communion with the Catholic Church and believes reforms instituted following the second Vatican Council, including the abolition of the Latin Mass, are invalid.