April 12th, 1954

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES:Journalist and writer Honor Tracy sued the Sunday Times in the 1950s over its apology to the parish priest of Doneraile, Co Cork, for an article she had written in which she had compared his new house, reputed to have cost £9,000, with the poverty of the village. She won damages of £3,000 and the people of Doneraile came out in support of the priest, Canon Maurice O’Connell, the next weekend. - JOE JOYCE

HEADED BY a band, about 3,000 parishioners marched yesterday from the Presentation Convent in Doneraile to a field behind the parochial house, where they were addressed by the Very Rev. Maurice Canon O’Connell, P.P.; Mr. M. J. Nagle, [the Canon’s] solicitor; Mr. P. McAuliffe, [Labour] T.D., and members of the Doneraile Protest Committee.

Among the messages read by the chairman, Mr. John Walsh, was one from the Bishop of Cloyne, Most Rev. Dr. Roche, which expressed his appreciation of the loyalty of the people of Doneraile to their parish priest.

On its way to the field the parade halted in front of the parochial house, and the band played “Faith of Our Fathers”. Civic Guards directed the traffic at the approaches to the town . . .

In the parade were the local choir and confraternity, members of the Children of Mary, Muintir na Tire, and Gaelic League. All carried banners with inscriptions of loyalty to Canon O’Connell.

Mr. Nagle said that he had no intention of entering into a mud-slinging battle with a British journalist. She had succeeded in achieving the very opposite of what she set out to do. Instead of bringing shame or disgrace on the revered parish priest of Doneraile, she had united his people more solidly than ever behind him.

When the Sunday Times had apologised to him, said Mr. Nagle, Canon O’Connell, like the grand Christian gentleman that he was, had accepted the apology, and later had not hesitated to put his own evidence and that of his solicitor and other witnesses at the disposal of the paper’s defence in a unique example of chivalry.

Mr. McAuliffe said that Irish Catholics made no apology to anybody for holding the view that only the best house was good enough for their parish priest.

He was God’s Minister in their midst, and his house was the house of God. That great meeting was a magnificent example of the loyalty the people of the district bore for their parish priest.

Very Rev. Canon O’Connell, who was greeted with prolonged applause, said he would be prepared again to take the same action even if he had to face the uncertainty of an adverse decision in the law courts.

There were courts that were greater than brick and mortar, and there was no reason for regret once a person did his duty to the best of his ability.

In the English courts, if they had not won a material victory, they had won a great moral victory, because the summing-up of the learned judge had brought forth as clear as the noon-day sun that right was on their side.

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