Clerics defend Fr Oliver O’Reilly after Quinn complains to Vatican

Priestly brotherhood backs Fr O’Reilly in sermon row after assault on Kevin Lunney

The Association of Catholic Priests has come to the defence of Co Cavan priest Fr Oliver O'Reilly after it emerged Seán Quinn complained about him to the Vatican.

Fr O'Reilly came to national prominence in the days after the abduction and assault of Quinn Industrial Holdings director Kevin Lunney. Fr O'Reilly denounced the "barbaric and horrific" assault from the pulpit in Ballyconnell as well as condemning "the paymaster or paymasters" responsible for the attack.

In a letter first reported in the Sunday Independent, Mr Quinn complains about the homily to senior church officials including Pope Francis's secretary of state, two cardinals and the papal nuncio to Ireland.

Association member Fr Roy Donovan said the group "wants to support [Fr O'Reilly] . . . applaud his courage for the homily that he put out when he spoke about the situation. He is trying to break the omerta, he has broken that by speaking out and confronting some of the intimidation and bullying that's going on," he said.


Fr Donovan said “it must be very difficult for Oliver in the present situation” as speaking out about the attack “has isolated him . . . and that’s why his courage is to be applauded. All the priests in the country would . . . want him to know they support him. He is not a man that does this sort of stuff regularly. Because of the circumstances he’s in, he feels he has to speak out and say what he has to say.”

Mr Quinn in the letter again condemned and denied any part in the attack on Mr Lunney. He told the church officials that following Fr O’Reilly’s homily, “I and my family have also been frightened and intimidated by my being falsely accused of complicity in the attack from the altar in public, by my own local priest.”

He continued: “I write to [Papal Nuncio to Ireland] Archbishop [Jude Thaddeus] Okolo and to their eminences to ask them to protect me as a member of the people of God from the misuse of the liturgy and priesthood to make false charges against me.”

Unnamed man

Following the homily, Mr Quinn met the Monsignor of the Diocese of Kilmore and also called to Fr O’Reilly’s home to discuss the matter.

There was no response to a series of questions about Mr Quinn’s letter sent to the papal nuncio’s office.

A director of Quinn Industrial Holdings has said anyone with information on attacks on senior executives at the company should go to the Police Service of Northern Ireland or gardaí.

John McCartin was speaking after publication in the Sunday Times of an interview with an unnamed man who claimed to have been involved in the campaign of intimidation.

The interviewee, who was given the pseudonym Diesel, claimed that “the people who got us involved at the start continued working in QIH after Quinn left. They think no one knows about their involvement in the attacks. They think no one will say anything in case they incriminate themselves.”

Mr McCartin, a former Fine Gael councillor in Co Leitrim, said "we would appeal to anyone who has any information about any aspect of this to go to the gardaí or the PSNI".

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times