Priest compares Irish Government to Black and Tans for closing church services

Priest compares Irish Government to Black and Tans for closing church services

AN IRISH priest has accused the Government of acting like the Black and Tans with regards to the mandatory closure of church services.

Fr Gearóid Walsh, of Ballymacelligott parish in County Kerry, made the controversial comments on a Facebook livestream where he accused those in Government of  a lack of consistency, saying "they don't have a clue" when it comes to worshippers' needs and the church was safer than packed supermarkets.

"The spirit of the Black and Tans is very much alive and well," Fr Walsh said, referring to the brutal gunmen sent to stamp out Irish nationalism during the War of Independence.

Mass and other religious services were moved online as Ireland entered Level 3 restrictions, and remains in place throughout the even stricter Level 5, which is currently in place nationwide.

Churches remain open for private prayer, however in the livestream, Fr Walsh said: "The suggestion that live streaming religious services should satisfy worshippers also reveals that the decision makers haven’t a clue as to what participation in the Eucharist is about and what it means for people of faith".

Fr Walsh said those in Government "haven't a clue" what participation in Mass truly means to believers.

Fr Walsh's comments attracted some criticism, and he was invited on to RTÉ's Liveline radio programme, where he defended his speech by explaining the Parish house he lives in was in fact burned down by the Black and Tans in 1921.

The burning of the Presbytery in his small community, he said, "disrupted life, and that is nearly 100 years ago".

"The point I'm making," he continued, "is that nothing of its kind has disrupted worship since then. I was talking about the disruption of public worship, the spirit of the Black and Tans in terms of the disruption of life."

He also argued that churches should be allowed to remain open as they are as safe as supermarkets, and asked "why is it OK to have people gathered in those spaces and not ... in a church?", pointing out that churches' high ceilings and capacity for social distancing should make the buildings Covid-secure.

Level 5 restrictions are expected to last in Ireland until early December, with a potential move to Level 3 restrictions to occur on 1 December.

However, under Level 3, Mass and other religious services should still be livestreamed-- meaning it's possible Christmas Day and Midnight Mass may not take place this year.