Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Church aided cleric exiled over priest handshake

A former Presbyterian minister forced to leave Limavady after exchanging Christmas greetings with a priest has told how the Catholic Church gave him money to help him resettle.

The Rev David Armstrong said Cardinal Tomas O Fiach told him not to reveal details of the gift until after his death.

Mr Armstrong and his family left the Co Londonderry town after receiving death threats from loyalist paramilitaries following his decision to exchange festive greetings in 1983 with Fr Kevin Mullan.

Yesterday the two men were reunited as Mr Armstrong - now a Church of Ireland minister in Cork after a spell in England - returned to Northern Ireland to visit Fr Mullan at his home in Drumquin, Co Tyrone.

Recently, a plan to give both men the Freedom of the Borough was voted down by unionists in Limavady.

Mr Armstrong said yesterday that he became a student again at Oxford after being forced to leave Limavady. He said he had lost his income, adding: “The implications of that were heavy but a cheque arrived for a good sum of money from Armagh, from Tomas O Fiach.

“I phoned his secretary and asked to be put through to him and he came through and said; ‘David, you needn’t let anybody know until the day I die. Whenever I die, you can tell who you like.”

Mr Armstrong also said that some people in Limavady were taking soundings about inviting the two clergymen back to the town.

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