Priest who threw paint on Russian embassy gets ‘hundreds’ of support messages

Fr Fergal MacDonagh says he has been offered free legal representation over his actions

A Catholic priest who threw red paint at the gate of the Russian embassy in Ireland says he has received hundreds of messages of support from across the world.

Fr Fergal MacDonagh also said that both a senior and junior counsel contacted him separately over the weekend offering to represent him pro bono if he was taken to court for his actions.

Fr MacDonagh, the parish priest of Dolphins Barn/Rialto, poured the can of red oil paint, symbolising the victims of the Russian invasion, on the gates of the embassy while speaking on air last Friday to Joe Duffy's RTÉ Liveline programme.

He was prompted to act by news that the Russian military had shelled a maternity hospital in Ukraine which he described as an "act of provocation".

The Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital is part of his parish.

The priest said he was “delighted and proud” over his actions, especially as the embassy is, legally speaking, sovereign Russian territory.

He described the Russian embassy as a “building that is spreading lies, deceit and misinformation about what is happening”.

He added that if a summons for criminal damage is sent to him through the post, he will not pay the fine, but will frame it instead.

Among the hundreds of emails and texts he had received, he also received three or four messages decrying his actions. “I haven’t read them. They are not good for one’s mental health,” he said.

“I understand that some people will disagree with me, but the vast majority of messages I have received have been very supportive.”

He is a priest in the Archdiocese of Dublin. The Archdiocese did not respond directly to Fr MacDonagh's actions.

Instead, a spokeswoman referred to a statement on the Archdiocese's website from Friday in which which Archbishop Dermot Farrell said now is a "time for peacemaking and witness to peace, not the senseless call to violence."

The priest said he has heard nothing directly or indirectly from Archbishop Farrell about his actions.

Fr MacDonagh responded that his actions were not a “senseless call to violence” but a peaceful demonstration.

“When I spoke outside the GPO on Saturday, I made a call for peace. I said we are better than Putin.”

At that demonstration which was attended by approximately 2,000 people, he told the mostly Ukrainian crowd: “Putin will face justice in this world or the next. I have been frightened and anxious all week. We must protest. The people of Ukraine must know that they are not alone. We are on their side. We stand with them.”

He also intends to ask the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Gerasko Larysa to appear as a witness for him should he face a court summons over his actions outside the embassy.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times