Graduation Mass no-vote homily sparks walkout

Parents and pupils of a Cork school last week reacted angrily after a local priest used his homily during a graduation Mass to back a no vote in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

The homily prompted a walkout by some attendees, while another member of the congregation is said to have challenged the priest on his comments during the ceremony.

The incident occurred on Thursday, May 24, the eve of the referendum, during the graduation Mass for sixth-year students at Loreto Secondary School in Fermoy.

The incident was yesterday discussed on C103’s Cork Today show, where a text claiming to be from one of the students said she was “delighted” the issue was receiving coverage, as the remarks by Fr Mark Hehir “ruined” the Mass.

The anonymous texter said Fr Hehir had been specifically asked not to raise the matter during the Mass, as he had already done so during a ceremony for transition year students.

“The few no voters in our year turns to yes voters after that Mass,” the text read.

“Honestly I’m still shocked and we’re all still talking about it. It’s a constant source of anger and sadness for us and it will never be forgotten.”


“The Mass was meant to be about us and about coming together for the last time, and how it would be the beginning and the ending of chapters of our lives, and now it’s all about Fr Hehir pushing a no vote.”

Assumpta, a caller to the show, told presenter Patricia Messinger that she was at the Mass for her nieces who were graduating, but walked out of the ceremony in protest at the comments.

“I’ve been to graduation Masses in the past with my own family, and you’re expecting it to be about new adventures, about their time together, so I was appalled,” said Assumpta.

“Regardless of votes, what way you were voting, for me, I just felt it was totally inappropriate.

“I began to feel quite uncomfortable and quite annoyed. So I got up and walked out. It was my decision to be there, it was also my decision to get up and walk out, a thing I have never done.

“Straight away, people were turning to whoever was alongside them, their partners, sisters, whatever, and they were looking in total disbelief.

“When I got up there was another dad who met me in the aisle and he said: ‘I just can’t believe this is happening.’ I said: ‘I can’t either.’ We went outside the door and about 19 other people joined.”

The caller said that she had heard that a man who spoke out against the comments received “a standing ovation”, and that Fr Hehir subsequently apologised if anybody was offended.

She said the comments were the main topic of conversation after the Mass.

Loreto Secondary School principal Marie Ring, told the Irish Examiner that she would not comment on the ceremony out of respect to the students.

“The Loreto Fermoy Leaving Certificate Mass was a ceremony to mark the graduation of our sixth-year girls,” she said. 

“Out of respect to the girls and their families, it would not be appropriate for me to discuss the ceremony outside of the school community.

“It has been a pleasure to work with the Leaving Certificate class of 2018. I wish them well in their exams and for the future.”

Attempts to contact Fr Hehir and the Fermoy Parish Office were unsuccessful.

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