‘I don’t think that was the place’ – Cavan locals react to priest’s plea

Support for Fr O’Reilly’s sermon in Ballyconnell on Lunney abduction not unanimous

September 29th, 2019: Fr Oliver O’Reilly, parish priest of Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, delivers a homily in the wake of the assault on local businessman Kevin Lunney, who is a director of building products manufacturer Quinn Industrial Holdings.

 

The applause, when it came, lasted 28 seconds.

Fr Oliver O’Reilly, the parish priest in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, did not hold back from the pulpit of Our Lady Of Lourdes Church.

The abduction and torture on September 17th of local businessman Kevin Lunney, a director of Quinn Industrial Holdings, was “a modern form of crucifixion deployed by terrorist groups such as Islamic State”, he said.

He castigated not just “the perpetrators of this vile act” but also spoke of the “need to forcibly condemn the paymaster or paymasters”. He condemned the “Mafia-style group with its own ‘Godfather’ operating in our region for some time behind the scenes.”

Fr O’Reilly, just four years in this parish but much longer in the Border region, appealed to the wider community in west Cavan too.

He apologised for his own “ambivalence in not speaking out more forcibly” about the safety of the directors of building materials company and implored others not to “behave like the ostrich by putting our heads in the sand and pretend that life is normal in our area”.

He challenged the people of the parish – mostly gathered at the back of the church – not to be “silent witnesses when others are tortured”.

Outside afterwards, the support for the forceful stand the priest had taken was not unanimous, while others chose to remain silent and make for their cars when asked about the priest’s homily.

“I didn’t think much of it. I don’t think the like of that should be going on in church,” said one man who left shortly after Fr O’Reilly had finished his homily, long before the Mass ended.

He did not want to give his name.

Finger-pointing

“I totally condemn what happened but I don’t think that was the place,” said another man. “I don’t agree with what happened but I don’t think he should be pin-pointing or pointing a finger in anybody’s direction.”

He did not want to give his name.

“I don’t know if the church was the right place to do that,” said a woman. “Priests should not get involved. There are things going on that people don’t know about.”

She did not want to give her name.

“We are all very sad about it,” said another woman of the attack, “but we can’t really comment on it. It is a very sensitive subject around here.”

Asked why she could not comment when Fr O’Reilly appealed for people not to remain silent, she said: “It is a very difficult situation in Ballyconnell.”

“There are two sides to it all,” she added as she walked away.

She did not want to give her name.

There was plenty of praise for the priest but most willing to give their names were not from Ballyconnell.

“Fr Oliver is a brave man. People have to stand up. There will be negative comments. People will have to stand up for what’s the truth,” said Aidan Brady. He had travelled over from a few parishes away in Templeport to support the Lunneys who are married into his family.

Deirdre Ní Mhuineachain, visiting from north Kildare with relatives from nearby Derrylin, thought Fr O’Reilly was “brilliant”.

“I think more priests should speak out, teachers, leaders of the community. It is the only way of stopping this, to show these people we are not afraid of them,” she said. “He should have actually got a standing ovation.”

“Wasn’t that some sermon?” said one elderly woman walking down the steps from the church. “It was terrific and badly needed to be said. How else can he get his message across? Sure he has to.”