Belfast Telegraph

Priest renowned for peace-building gets an honorary degree

By Adrian Rutherford

A high-profile priest recognised for his contribution to peace-building and community work today receives an honorary degree from Queen's University.

Fr Gary Donegan's work came during turbulent times in north Belfast. The parish lost 99 people during the Troubles - the largest loss of life in any parish.

His years at Holy Cross Ardoyne included the blockade of Holy Cross Girls' Primary School in 2001, a suicide epidemic which saw 13 teenagers die in Ardoyne inside six weeks in 2004, and a series of parades disputes which reached an agreement in 2016.

He is credited with showing unwavering dedication to achieving peace and reconciliation for the north Belfast community, playing a key role in talks and negotiations and contributing to building a shared society.

He worked across the religious divide to help people dealing with issues related to legacy, economic, social and generational challenges.

A respected orator on the subject of peace-building and community cohesion, Fr Donegan has contributed to events at Queen's University, exploring peace and reconciliation.

Fr Donegan said: "This is a touching recognition by Queen's University Belfast. My heart will always be in north Belfast and I consider it both a blessing and privilege to have been there for so many years. Peace-building is often hard but always worth it.

"I very much admire the thought that leadership at Queen's University is giving on the subjects of peace, conflict resolution and transformation and I am proud to have become an honorary graduate."

Born in Newtownbutler, Fr Donegan entered the Passionist Monastery in Graan, Enniskillen as a postulate at the age of 19 and was ordained 1991.

In 2001, he was appointed to Ardoyne and along with his predecessor and former colleague Fr Aidan Troy, walked with and tried to protect from loyalist protesters schoolchildren, going to and from Holy Cross Primary School.

He was a nightly presence at Twaddell Avenue during the almost three-year loyalist protest against the Parades Commission ban on a Twelfth parade returning past Ardoyne shops.

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