A group representing over 1,000 priests in Ireland is backing a parish priest who has received pushback for denouncing the kidnapping of a businessman and a “mafia reign of terror”.

Driving the news

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) released a statement Sunday expressing its “support” for Father Oliver O’Reilly.

The Ballyconnell parish priest has been vocal in his condemnation of the “long reign of terror” hanging over the Cavan-Fermanagh area that culminated in the September 17 kidnapping and torture of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney.

The abduction was the latest incident in a long campaign of intimidation of executives in the Quinn group of companies formerly owned by Seán Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man.

“We admire [O’Reilly’s] courage in speaking the truth in a very difficult situation”, the ACP said.

A spokesman for the group later added to Irish News:

“We want to say how much we admire Fr O’Reilly’s courage for speaking out. He is not a man who usually speaks out but he obviously felt he could not remain silent.

“We would not want him to remain isolated. The association would want to reassure him that they support him”.

Go deeper

O’Reilly denounced from the pulpit in September the perpetrators of the “vile act” against Lunney and put on notice “the paymaster or paymasters” or “Godfather” behind the abduction, describing them as a “Mafia-style group”.

The priest added that Lunney’s attackers were financed by people “so consumed with hatred they have lost their moral compass”.

The intrigue

Though O’Reilly has never named names, Seán Quinn felt the priest was pointing at him as the “Godfather” behind Lunney’s abduction, and wrote to Church authorities to complain.

As The Sunday Independent reported yesterday, on October 21 Quinn wrote a letter to O’Reilly; the Kilmore diocesan administrator, Monsignor Liam Kelly; the nuncio in Ireland, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo; and cardinals Pietro Parolin, Marc Ouellet, and Beniamino Stella in the Vatican to complain about O’Reilly’s “vilification” of him.

In that letter, Quinn asked the prelates “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”.

Quinn insisted he had “no hand, act or part, no knowledge of or gain from the attack” on Lunney.

“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”, Quinn continued in his letter.

“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.

“Fr O’Reilly has referred to the ‘paymaster or paymasters’ and ‘godfather’, making clear and false references to me.

“I now write to Fr O’Reilly and Monsignor Kelly to call upon them again to publicly correct the false charges made against me and to end the public and media campaign of vilification”, Quinn said.

What’s next

For the moment O’Reilly has not responded to Quinn’s letter.

Earlier this month, however, the priest said he wanted to “take a back seat for a while” and keep quiet for a time so as to “give peace and harmony a chance”.

Last week Irish police arrested three people in counties Cavan, Longford and Dublin in connection with the attack on Lunney.

Though the people were released without charge Saturday, a spokesman said files on them would be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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