Priest says sorry for praising IRA man Tony Catney at funeral
A priest has apologised for any hurt caused when he praised an IRA murderer's "pursuit of justice".
Father Aidan Brankin, parish priest of St Oliver Plunkett church in Lenadoon in west Belfast, praised Tony 'TC' Catney's work "fighting for justice" during Requiem Mass on Wednesday.
The 55-year-old died last weekend following a battle with cancer.
During Catney's funeral – which had paramilitary trappings and attracted prominent dissident republicans– Fr Brankin said Catney had fought for "justice for everyone". Eight masked men accompanied the Irish flag-draped coffin through west Belfast.
There were also reports that a volley of shots was fired in tribute on Tuesday evening.
Police said they staged an evidence-gathering operation during the funeral and would review the material they gathered.
The funeral sparked outrage from DUP MLA Nelson McCausland, particularly Fr Brankin's comment. "This was not someone who regretted their actions and then worked for the betterment of society. Instead, Tony Catney was unrepentant about his past and about the use of terrorism," he said.
Fr Brankin said: "During my homily at the Requiem Mass of Tony Catney, I paid tribute to his relationship with his family, his ongoing campaign for human rights and his search for justice.
"Within the context of my homily, and based upon the Gospel passage of the healing of the paralysed man on account of the faith of Jesus, these actions were contrasted with his earlier conviction for murder and imprisonment. It was my intention by highlighting and making reference for these activities to identify concrete signs of conversion.
"I wholeheartedly apologise for any hurt and distress caused by these comments."