Dublin priest says archbishops remind him of the Housemartins
Band found success with ‘mixture of populist politics and Christianity’
Fr Michael Cleary: Dublin priest Fr Arthur O’Neill, in a newsletter last June, described media revelations that Fr Cleary had children as ‘exasperating’ and unproven. Photograph: Frank Miller/ The Irish Times
A Dublin parish priest, rebuked by two Catholic archbishops last June for casting doubt on media reports that Fr Michael Cleary fathered children, has described their reaction “as disappointing to say the least”.
Fr Arthur O’Neill, administrator in Cabinteely, said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and the Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin reminded him of 1980s pop group the Housemartins.
“Their melodies and harmonies were always a mixture of populist politics and Christianity, which gave them lots of public appeal.” In his parish newsletter Fr O’Neill recalled his “real surprise” last year was “to read about myself on page one of The Irish Times ‘being rebuked’ by Archbishop Martin for daring to ask such a question.”
He said he had “simply asked what evidence was there at the time to allow so many journalists write with such certainty [about Fr Cleary].”
“Personally I place a higher regard on my character and my reputation than to let such ill-founded utterances and attendant inferences go uncommented upon.”
In his Father’s Day newsletter on June 15th last, Fr O’Neill described media revelations that Fr Cleary had children as “exasperating”, unproven and the result of “shoddy practice” by 40 named journalists.
He challenged the journalists to prove such revelations. Fr Cleary had suffered a serious injustice, he said.
“The burial of a person’s legacy deeper than their body just isn’t fair – if it’s based on a falsehood,” he said.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the remarks were Fr O’Neill’s alone and were not supported by him. He also said “parish newsletters are not vehicles for the expression of personal views”.
“Wouldn’t it have been far more effective and indeed would shut me up once and for all on this subject, just to reveal the reason for their certainty in the early 1990s,” he said. Fr Cleary died in December 1993.