Fr Kieran Creagh's relief at murder bid verdicts
The Belfast priest who was shot and seriously injured during a robbery in South Africa last year has spoken of his relief after two men were convicted of his attempted murder.
Father Kieran Creagh (46) was left for dead at the AIDS hospice he helped build in a poverty-stricken township in Pretoria after a gang of armed robbers burst into the compound in the dead of night last February.
Fr Creagh, who is originally from north Belfast, spent a lengthy period in hospital recovering from his injuries. The shooting sparked a massive outpouring of support for Fr Creagh and condemnation towards his attackers.
Dozens of people were in court yesterday to show their support for Fr Creagh at the conclusion of the trial of two men charged in connection with the attack.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from South Africa, he said: “There was a big crowd from the hospice and neighbours from the township. The courthouse was packed with people supporting myself, so I felt good about that.
“But there was no sense of elation. I have no feeling of retribution or revenge, I feel sad about them because they were once somebody’s little children and they ended up the way they did.
“I felt relieved when I heard the guilty verdict, because at one stage I thought these guys are not going to be convicted and what do I do then? At the same time it wasn’t a happy feeling of relief because there are two guys going into prison now.
“I would intend to meet them at some stage, when possible, just to chat to them. I do forgive them, I did that last year. When I woke up in intensive care I said I forgave them. I have never harboured any resentment towards them at all.
“I couldn’t keep that in my heart. I had so many other things to think about, such as getting strong and getting off the machines in intensive care. I’m hoping that I can now draw a line under it and move on.”
Fr Creagh said that he had made a good physical improvement from his injuries, but still suffered some pain.
“My energy levels aren't as good as they used to be, I get tired easily,” he said.
Fr Creagh is now concentrating on putting the finishing touches to the £700,000 hospice and clinic he has spent years building.
“People back home in Ireland have been exceptionally generous, I think the shooting helped a little bit with the fundraising,” he said.
“I’m going to stay in South Africa for the foreseeable future, I’d like to see this project through. The building will be finished in mid-October and hopefully by the end of the year it will be up and running. I think I’ll still be here for the World Cup in 2010.”
To donate to the hospice project or find out about the work being done log onto www.leratong.co.za