Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Lunney: Clerics back priest after Sean Quinn complains to the Vatican

Fr Oliver O'Reilly has been supported by the Association of Catholic Priests

Fr. Oliver O'Reilly, Our Lady of Lourds, Ballyconnell who gave a strong sermon on the Kevin Lunney abduction.
Fr. Oliver O'Reilly, Our Lady of Lourds, Ballyconnell who gave a strong sermon on the Kevin Lunney abduction.

By Maeve Sheehan and Eimear McGovern

The Association of Catholic Priests has backed Fr Oliver O'Reilly after the former billionaire Sean Quinn complained about him to the Vatican.

The association said they were supporting the priest and his position after he denounced the "barbaric and horrific" assault on Mr Lunney in September from his church in Ballyconnell.

"The leadership of the ACP would like to express their support for Oliver O'Reilly PP and the position he has adopted in relation to the recent attack on Mr Kevin Lunney," said a spokesperson.

"We admire his courage in speaking the truth in a very difficult situation."

It's after Sean Quinn has appealed to the Vatican for protection from “false charges” by the priest that he was “complicit” in the attack on Kevin Lunney.

The former billionaire, from Co Fermanagh, wrote last month to Pope Francis’s secretary of state, two other cardinals and the Papal Nuncio to complain about Fr Oliver O’Reilly’s scathing homily condemning the Mafia-style group with its own godfather behind the abduction and torture of the businessman.

The attack marked a violent escalation in a campaign of intimidation and violence waged against Mr Lunney and four other directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) who are living under police protection because their lives are at risk. Mr Lunney was abducted as he returned home after leaving the QIH offices in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh on September 17.

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Ex-billionaire businessman Sean Quinn (Niall Carson/PA)
Ex-billionaire businessman Sean Quinn (Niall Carson/PA)

In his appeal to Catholic Church hierarchy, Mr Quinn claimed he has been “falsely accused of complicity in the attack from the altar, by (his) own local priest.”

As a result, he said, he, his wife and family are victims of a “campaign of public vilification in our own locality on entirely false allegations.”

He concludes by calling on Fr O’Reilly and the Diocesan administrator, Monsignor Liam Kelly, to publicly correct the “false charges”.  He appeals directly to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, and the cardinals to “protect me as a member of the people of God from the misuse of the liturgy and priesthood to make false charges against me.”

Sean Quinn’s claims that he is the subject of a campaign of public vilification come as a cross border investigation closes in on key suspects in the campaign of intimidation, criminal damage and violence waged for the past eight years against the directors of QIH and their predecessors in the Quinn businesses.

Three people arrested by Gardai in connection with the attack, two men in their 20s and 40s and a woman in her 50s, were released without charge yesterday. Further arrests are expected in the coming weeks.

Mr Quinn wrote the letter on October 21, copying his letter to Archbishop Okolo, the Apostolic Nuncio, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, and Cardinal Benamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. He also copied in Fr O’Reilly and Monsignor Liam Kelly.

Mr Quinn reiterated his condemnation of the attack on Kevin Lunney,  saying he had “no hand, act or part, no knowledge of or gain from the attack.”

“However, beyond the shock and disgust that I felt after learning of the attack, I and my family have also been frightened and intimidated by my being falsely accused of complicity in the attack from the altar in public, by my own local priest.”

The letter continued: “As a lifelong practising Catholic and a native of Ballyconnell, my wife and family are now victims of a campaign of public vilification in our own locality on entirely false allegations.”

He said Fr O’Reilly “has referred to the paymaster or paymasters and ‘godfather’ making clear and false references to me. In subsequent media interviews, Fr O’Reilly stated that ‘the dogs in the street’ know who the paymaster was to whom he referred”.

He “utterly condemned” the attack upon this man [Kevin Lunney] and described it as barbaric immediately upon hearing of it.

The parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, denounced from the pulpit the  “paymaster”,  a person “so consumed with hatred and enmity that they lose their moral compass and are prepared to hire the most ruthless of criminals to achieve their sinister goals.”

Meanwhile, Garda sources say significant “material” has emerged from a series of searches conducted on homes and businesses in Northern Ireland, the Republic and England last weekend.

Cyril ‘Dublin Jimmy’ McGuinness, the prime suspect for organising the attack on Lunney, died unexpectedly from a heart attack during the raid on his hideaway in Derbyshire.

Last weekend Sunday Life revealed police suspect a masked man photographed reading out a threat to the QIH directors is former Real IRA bomber John Connolly. 

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