McGrath: the criticism is overdone, a ‘céad míle fáilte’ awaits pope

TD says people who don’t want to take part can ignore the papal visit or ‘go to the beach’

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said criticism of the Catholic Church in the lead up to the papal visit to Ireland has been excessive and said he will tell Pope Francis a "céad míle fáilte" awaits him in Ireland.

Mr McGrath is due to meet the pope in Rome on Thursday, ahead of the Pontiff’s visit to Ireland this weekend.

The Tipperary deputy will be in the Vatican as part of the International Catholic Legislators Network. He said on Tuesday criticism of the church in the lead up to the papal visit has been "OTT"

He said those who do not want to participate in the events could either ignore the visit or “go to the beach”.


He will also tell the Pope the majority of Irish people will be happy to see him.

Mr McGrath criticised recent statements from a number of current and former senior political figures, as well as others, on the Pope’s visit.

These include Ms McAleese, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan.

“It is sour grapes,” Mr McGrath said of the criticism. “It is OTT.”

Ms McAleese has made a number of criticisms of the church in recent times. Last weekend, she said the Pope’s “mode of thinking” means he is defending the church ahead of the interests of victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Responding, Mr McGrath said she “can’t even get off the stage”.

Mr McGrath, a former Fianna Fáil member, said he had canvassed with Ms McAleese during the 1997 presidential election when he said she relied on the support of "bog standard Catholics". "If she wants to set up her own church, then go ahead and do it," he added.

‘Worst minister ever’

Mr Halligan, the Waterford Independent Alliance TD, has opted to boycott the pope's visit, leading Mr McGrath to say: "John Halligan doesn't want to meet him but he is happy to meet Kim Jong-Un."

This is a reference to a proposal earlier this year from Mr Halligan, and his colleagues Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, that they should travel to North Korea to engage in diplomacy with the country's leader.

At the weekend, Mr Creed praised Mrs McAleese for how she had “tackled” the Vatican over how it had dealt with various scandals.

As a practising Catholic, Mr Creed said he had been deeply uncomfortable with the response of the “official church” to various scandals, as well as its attitudes to women and the LGBT community. He added, however, Pope Francis should still be extended a “céad míle fáilte”.

Ms Zappone has also commented on the Pope’s visit, including saying she hoped the Catholic Church’s World Meeting of Families, which includes the papal visit, “will not be used as a platform for remarks which exclude, isolate or hurt any family”.

Of Mr Creed, Mr McGrath said: “He is the worst minister for agriculture ever and here he is wading into ecclesiastical matters.

“It should be more on Mr Creed’s mind to look after the farmers and hers to look after the children,” he added of Mr Creed and Ms Zappone, adding there are serious questions for Ms Zappone to answer in relation to the State’s treatment of children.

Others, such as senator Rónán Mullen have also criticised Ms McAleese.

Mr Mullen said her description of the World Meeting of Families as a ‘right-wing’ rally “would cause offence to thousands of people who were hoping for the Pope’s visit to be a moment of reconciliation and celebration”.