Taoiseach backs ‘courageous’ priest after Quinn complaint to Vatican

Fr Oliver O’Reilly offered ‘moral leadership’ after Lunney attack, says Varadkar

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has expressed his support for Co Cavan priest Fr Oliver O'Reilly for "offering moral leadership in a difficult time" after it emerged that Seán Quinn complained about him to the Vatican.

In a homily in September, Fr O'Reilly, who is based in Ballyconnell, condemned the attack on Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney.

Fr O’Reilly denounced the “barbaric and horrific” assault, as well as condemning “the paymaster or paymasters” responsible for the attack.

Mr Quinn complained about the homily to senior church officials including Pope Francis’s secretary of state, two cardinals and the papal nuncio to Ireland.


In his letter he 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.”

In a statement on Monday evening, the Taoiseach said that Fr O’Reilly’s homily “spoke from the heart and the head”, adding that he “offered leadership to a distressed community”.

“He offered moral guidance to his community, he condemned the savagery of the kidnapping and the ongoing campaign of intimidation, and called on everyone to cooperate with the authorities,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I believe that Fr O’Reilly showed considerable courage in giving this homily and I commend him for doing so.”

Asked to comment on Mr Quinn’s letter to the Vatican and others about the homily delivered by Fr O’Reilly, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin on Monday reiterated comments he made last month about the Ballyconnell situation. At that time he said priests there had given “admirable leadership in recent weeks and a very strong public voice for the communities. Listening to them you do get a sense of intimidation and fear.

“I’m no stranger to that. We grew up in the North with an atmosphere of intimidation and fear where people and communities were afraid to speak up about violent people in their midst.”

He appreciated “the role the local church has played in that. It is a good example of where the priests on the ground do try to speak up on behalf of the people,” he said.

It was, he added, “outrageous what Kevin Lunney went through and indeed what we understand other people have been living under, that shadow of intimidation and fear.”

The Association of Catholic Priests also defended Fr O’Reilly’s comments saying that his speaking out about it was “very brave”.

Association member Roy O’Donovan said on Sunday they “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.

In September, Mr Lunney was abducted outside his home in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, tortured and later dumped in Co Cavan.

The main suspect in the investigation, Cyril McGuinness, died last week while Derbyshire police searched his home near Buxton in the UK.

Three other people who were arrested in relation to the attack two months ago have been released without charge.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times