A CLARE parish priest has been forced by the courts to make an undisclosed payment to a Traveller woman for barring her from a First Holy Communion service in a church in Ennistymon.
Caroline Sherlock was denied entry because, according to Father Willie Cummins, her skirt was too short.
Ms Sherlock, with an address at Deerpark Halting Site, Ennistymon, took a separate action against the late Martin Drennan, former Bishop of the Diocese Of Galway and Kilmacduagh, concerning her discrimination case. Bishop Drennan died last year.
The joint discrimination action arose from an incident eight years ago when Fr Cummins refused Ms Sherlock to attend the Church of Our Lady and St Michael, Ennistymon for her niece Stacey and nephew Martin’s First Communion. The case has been the subject of lengthy litigation.
Caroline Sherlock alleges that on the day Fr. Cummins stopped her from entering the Church due to what she was wearing. He had refused entry on the grounds that the diocese had strict dress codes for Mass. These included ‘no low-cut tops’ and ‘no mini, mini skirts’.
Clare FM radio station reports that Ms Sherlock’s sister Kathleen said: “It was humiliating – I wanted to be in the Church for my babies’ communion and I missed it. . . It ruined our day. Completely destroyed it altogether. Everyone was upset.”
Kathleen Sherlock said: “Caroline had a skirt above her knee and Fr Cummins didn’t want her to go in due to a (dress) policy. But there were a lot of settled people, ladies, with the same short skirts and they were allowed into the church.”
Gardaí were called to the church at the time. Although there had been “an altercation followed by a commotion” at the front door of the church according to one witness, , garda officers confirmed that no public order incident or breach of the peace had occurred, and no one was arrested.
An out-of-court settlement was agreed last week.
At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Francis Comerford noted the out-of-court settlement between Fr Cummins of Ennistymon and Caroline Sherlock of Deerpark Halting Site.