Belfast parishioners' rally in support of affair claim priest
More than 60 people gathered outside St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast last night to demonstrate local community support for Fr Ciaran Dallat, the priest accused by his former lover of abandoning her after their love affair came to an end.
A north Belfast businesswoman (49), known only as 'Linda', has accused Fr Dallat of having a two-year affair with her.
She also claimed she became pregnant to the priest, miscarrying their child in 2013 after a five-week pregnancy.
The north Belfast woman also claimed she had showered Fr Dallat (51) with gifts during their relationship, including a two-week Nordic cruise costing £3,700.
As the crowd gathered close to the front gate of the cathedral, an unnamed man addressed the crowd briefly, urging everyone present to get as many people as possible to sign a petition of support.
He called on them to bring the signatures back to a candlelit vigil for Fr Dallat being organised for tomorrow night outside St Peter's.
A nun named Sister Georgina then led the rally in prayer as Fr Dallat's mostly female supporters clamoured to sign the petition.
Fr Dallat did not attend the St Peter's event.
He is believed to be at a north coast hideaway while the storm over his alleged romantic entanglements rages.
Despite his absence, support for the popular assistant priest remained strong among the parishioners who had braved the chilly night.
Speaking after last night's rally, local mum Lisa said: "Bring him back.
"He's one of the best.
"All the kids miss him. They have Communions coming up and they want Fr Ciaran back."
A small boy at her side nodded his agreement.
Among the women at the rally, there was anger that Fr Dallat had been named, while his accuser had hidden her identity behind the pseudonym of 'Linda'.
"This is between him and her.
"If he was named, so should she have been.
"If you haven't the guts to give your name, that should be the end of the story," said one woman at the rally .
She didn't want to give her name.
"Just call me 'Linda II,'" she said.
Church authorities remained tight-lipped on the issue yesterday as a campaign to bring Fr Dallat back to his role at St Peter's gathered momentum.
More than 1,300 people have now backed the campaign, which has been organised through social media network Facebook.
Catholic priest Fr Ciaran Dallat is at the centre of a celibacy storm after a Belfast businesswoman claimed she had conducted a passionate love affair with him for two years. Last night many of his parishioners held a rally in west Belfast to show their support for the popular priest. They want him back at his post immediately.