Drug smuggler Michaella McCollum repentant, says priest

‘With her capabilities she can be a very useful person in society,’ says Fr Maurice Foley

Appearing in her first interview since being released from Peruvian prison, Michaella McCollum insists she is 'not a bad person'. Video: RTÉ

 

An Irish priest who ministered to convicted drug smuggler Michaella McCollum says he believes she is repentant and wants to put her past behind her.

Fr Maurice Foley, who is now back in Ireland, was in Lima, Peru for several years during which time he visited Ms McCollum in prison many times.

He told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke show that the first prison in which she had been incarcerated was very benign and not very harsh but a year later she was moved to another prison which was far more dangerous with a tougher regime.

“She bore up very well. She started learning Spanish which helped. When I first met her she had a little dictionary. When I came back a year later she was talking Spanish fluently. I was amazed she picked it up like it was very easy.”

Fr Foley said he was very happy to hear that she had been released.

“With her capabilities she can be a very useful person in society.”

He said he had no idea what she was going to do in the future but he felt all the indications were that she would be a much better person.

“I don’t know what is ahead for her. What she’s going to do in the future depends on her. If she’s going to have suspicious relationships, I wouldn’t put my money on her.”

He added that he thought the television interview she gave on RTÉ last weekend would do a lot of good. “For the first time she had an opportunity to state her case and put it before the world.”

Critics of the interview were wrong, he added.

There was no evidence that she had profited financially from the crime as she always seemed short of money in prison.

“They were always short of cash for little things like coffee and biscuits.”

Fr Foley said he was still in touch with her through her mother. He agreed she gave a very polished performance in the TV interview but said this did not take from the fact that she was a repentant person.

“She is trying to put her past behind her and she is looking for a better future.”